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  • Bychuck it
  • May 18, 2016
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The Flint Water Crisis

The Flint Water Crisis

37O88WH3DDFlint, Michigan: once the thriving home of GM’s largest plant, has had more than its fair share of misfortune.  In the 1980s GM downsized the plant and the economic downturn has been consistent ever since.  With a population of almost 100,000, nearly 42% now live under the poverty line.  Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t end there.  Flint has been thrust back into the national spotlight in recent months following a major scandal: the Flint water crisis.

 

 

What Caused Flint, Michigan’s Water Crisis?

  • In 2014, the city of Flint changed water sources in an effort to reduce a major shortfall in the city’s water fund.
  • Construction was underway to connect Flint to Lake Huron.  During construction, the city looked to the Flint River as a water source.
  • Since the 1970s, the Flint River was known to be contaminated.  In fact, the water was 19 times more corrosive than water from Detroit (sourced from Lake Huron).
  • Because the water was so corrosive, lead from old lines began to filter into the Flint water supply along with many other toxins.
  • In August and September of 2014 city officials announced to residents that fecal coliform bacteria had been found in the water and issued a boil water advisory, though promptly announcing an “all clear” to drink water safely just four days later.
  • Over the months to follow the city denied multiple chances to reconnect to Detroit water in fear of skyrocketing water costs.
  • Studies eventually found that over 40% of homes in Flint had elevated lead levels in their tap water.
  • Multiple lawsuits and criminal charges have since been filed against the government and several government employees.  A state of emergency has been declared and FEMA has stepped in to help manage the disaster that now is Flint, Michigan.

Devastating Consequences

Lead in drinking water is a major problem.  The EPA legal limit for lead in drinking water is 15 ppb.  Some of the homes tested in Flint had as much as 397 ppb.  The effects of such high levels of lead can be devastating, particularly in children and pregnant women.  Some of this includes:

  • Developmental delays
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Lower IQ scores
  • High blood pressure
  • Reduced fertility
  • Heart and kidney disease
  • Depression
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, and constipation
  • Forgetfulness
  • Neurological effects and mental retardation

 

How Likely Is Another Water Crisis?

Unfortunately, the city of Flint had to learn a very hard lesson for the entire country.  We must be vigilant and always aware of the water we are using.  The residents of Flint trusted that their government was providing safe, healthy drinking water.  Sadly, bad decisions and cutting corners on the part of a few government leaders led to potentially detrimental consequences for thousands of residents.  We must prevent this from ever happening again in our country.  Regrettably, it could.

The entire country is facing aging, failing infrastructure.  The cost to replace US water pipes alone would cost $1 trillion.  It is just a matter of time before other cities decide to make the same cost-cutting measures that Flint did and suffer the same repercussions.

 

Moving Forward

What can we do moving forward to prevent another Flint water crisis?  While as citizens we cannot control the backroom decisions made by government officials, we can encourage more responsible decisions by our lawmakers and officials and demand the safety we deserve.

Other steps that should be taken to prevent another Flint crisis:

  • Have a team of knowledgeable professionals to give advice on important decisions.  Had Flint included engineers and scientists in their decisions, this crisis likely would have never happened.
  • EPA regulations need to be stricter.  Many cities grossly underestimate lead levels by using inadequate water testing techniques.
  • Response to a crisis needs to be brisk.  Had the Flint crisis been handled promptly and efficiently, the consequences could have been minimized significantly.
  • We need more education about lead.  Lead awareness needs to be raised so citizens are able to recognize the signs of lead contamination  immediately, whether or not they have lead lines , and how to protect their families from lead exposure.

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