2,000 years into humanity’s knowledge of lead’s debilitating properties, a United States Governor has allowed an entire city to be poisoned by the substance.
Flint, Michigan’s water source was switched from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014, according to the Associated Press. State officials ignored residents’ immediate concerns about the water quality. It took 17 months, EPA testing and an independent study by doctors at Virginia Tech to force legislators to admit the water was unsafe for residents.
The first acknowledgement that something was wrong came in the summer of 2014, when the state sent out a boil water advisory to combat the presence of coliform in the water. To combat this issue, a chemical was dumped into the water. This chemical then stripped pipes throughout the city, leaching lead into the water.
The initial water advisory was lifted, and Snyder and his team dismissed EPA warnings about issues with lead. In March, after 11 months of using the water, doctors at Hurley Medical Center found high levels of lead in children in the area.
Officials still assured residents that the water was safe.
The idea to switch to Flint River as a water source in the first place was supposed to save money, but seeing as toxins have leached into that river from automobile plants for the last hundred years, it’s not surprising there were issues with it.
To me it seems logical to run thorough testing on a body of water before making it into the primary source for the civilians one is responsible for, but apparently that was less important than Governor Rick Snyder’s dreams of cutting costs.
According to the EPA, even “the Romans were aware that lead could cause serious health problems, even madness and death.”
On Oct. 8, 2015, Snyder finally called for Flint to return to their initial water set up with Detroit.
While the lead poisoning of current residents cannot be reversed, activists and humanitarians are looking for solutions and retribution. Michael Moore, a documentary film maker and activist originally from Flint, has written an open letter to Governor Rick Snyder calling for his arrest.
Moore’s charges include “corruption and assault.” It is currently unclear whether or not Snyder could be charged with any crimes related to the incident. This has not stopped protestors who have marched three times this month to call for his arrest.
Political corruption at the expense of poor civilians is not a new occurrence. Instead of the punishment Snyder so surely deserves, activists should focus on passing legislature to increase the EPA’s ability to take action when test results show citizens are in danger.
John Counts for mlive.com reports that in light of “the failure of state officials that led to Flint’s water crisis, some of Michigan’s U.S. lawmakers are introducing a bill that would give the Environmental Protection Agency more leeway in such situations.”
As it stands now, it is up to state officials to inform citizens of toxins in their environment. Because informing citizens was solely the state’s responsibility, the EPA could not even release their own findings to the public when they discovered the water was unsafe.
With all the resources that the United States and individual state governments possess, it is ludicrous that that citizens should be subjected to this type of injustice. The generation of children in Flint have suffered irreversible lead poisoning, and many will suffer from mental and physical disabilities for the rest of their lives.
Even once residents have consistent access to safe water, the situation will haunt Flint for years to come. These residents were already a vulnerable population, struggling to make ends meet in an economy that has left them behind.
The most recent U.S. census data shows that 41.5 percent of Flint residents have an income below the poverty level. The median household income was $24,834 during the same time period, which is half that of Michigan as a whole.
How are people that are already struggling to survive supposed to cope with the added strain of being poisoned by their local government?
While the initial water issue could have been chalked up to oversight, once residents voiced concerns that were then backed by an EPA evaluation, there is no excuse for Snyder’s gross misconduct.