The Flint Water Crisis – Paroma Mehta, India

A three-hour drive from Detroit, Michigan, the town of Flint is currently in crisis. Since the early months of 2014, Flint has not had any access to clean water, and its citizens are bearing the brunt of this crisis. Over ten people have died, yet there has been very little mainstream media coverage of everything that has happened in the city.

It would perhaps be useful to first ask: How did the water crisis begin?

After a state takeover of Flint’s finances, money from the city’s water supply fund was reallocated to help pay off the city’s general debt. This reallocation made the city turn to a different water source, switching from a pipeline in Lake Huron, one of America’s five great lakes, to a pipeline in the Flint River.

Years before, the city shifted its water supply to Lake Huron as the Flint river had become increasingly toxic. The water in the river contains nineteen times more chloride than the water in Detroit, as well as large amounts of lead and bacteria, and has been credited with causing ailments like Legionnaire’s disease and lead poisoning. Since the river water is not treated with anti-corrosion agents, water which comes out of home taps is a murky brown colour and is full of toxicity. To combat this, city officials have advised the citizens of Flint to boil the water before consumption. However, the water supply remains contaminated and has caused many people to fall sick.

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After facing the crisis for a couple of months, Flint city received an offer from Detroit to connect back to Lake Huron and waive the fee for the reconnection. The Flint city council voted 7-1 to accept this offer. However, Flint’s emergency officer, Jerry Ambrose, declined this offer, believing that the city would have to face financial problems, like fund deficit, in the future.

Following Ambrose’s actions, activists filed a lawsuit against him. The filing of lawsuits and class action suits became extremely common as the situation in Flint escalated with legal action taken against city employee involved with tampering a report regarding lead levels, Mike Glasgow, and MDEQ employees, Stephen Busch, Mike Prysby, who Glasgow claims instructed him to do so. Companies including Veolia America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman, who were hired to advise the city officials on the usage of Flint water, were also sued due to incompetence and lack of warning regarding the levels of lead in the water. The Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, and even the state of Michigan itself faced threat of lawsuits due to their own inability to aid the city and the water connection but soon after these threats, the state took away Flint’s ability to sue in September 2016.

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The city’s water crisis has been closely followed by organisations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). Aside from testing the water from the Flint River for lead levels only to find out that they greatly exceeded the legal limits, the children of Flint were also discovered to have possessed an extremely high concentration of the substance in their bloodstreams.

 

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To combat the water pollution, residents were forced to carry bottles of clean water as pictured above. However, carrying bottled water everyday is neither a viable nor a sustainable solution. As the situation worsens and government intervention continues to affect the people of Flint, there seems like there is not much that one can do. Many organisations and ordinary people are trying to help the people of Flint as much as they can and are hoping for the better.

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Despite having access to a hazardous water supply, the residents of Flint are still paying for dirty water. This petition on Change.org calls for the Governer of Michigan to refund the money paid by the people of Flint for their water supply. The official website of the city cites different ways in which you can help the citizens gain access to clean water again. Another website supporting the same cause can be found at this link. Here is your chance to aid the struggling people of Flint – do your part to help.

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