The Realities of Flint Michigan – Part 1

By: Cami Swafford

We all know that there is a water crisis in Flint, Michigan. We hear about it fleetingly in tweets, on the news, on Facebook, and in conversations. We hear things such as, “Flint han’t had clean water for three years” and “Why don’t we talk about Flint?”,but rarely do we hear about what is actually going on. So what are the facts concerning this crisis? What are solutions that we can all partake in to get the people of Flint what they so desperately need—clean water?

In 2011, an audit, or financial examination, projected a twenty-five million dollar deficit to the city of Flint, mainly due to General Motor’s departure from the city. In response to this, Flint officials covered shortages in the city’s general fund with Flint’s water fund. The city began receiving federal monetary aid because of its financial state of emergency. However, a shortfall in the funding for water in  Flint still needed to be reduced. As a result, in 2014, Flint officials decided to turn to the Flint River, which has served as a dumping ground for wastes from factories and humans over the years, as a water source once again while a new pipeline that would connect Flint directly to Lake Huron was under construction.

Almost immediately, it became clear that Flint’s water was unsafe. Members of the community noticed that their water did not look, taste, or smell right. This led to the revelation that the State Department of Environmental Quality had been violating federal law by not treating the Flint River with anti-corrosive agents. Compared to Lake Huron, Detroit’s water source, the river was nineteen times more corrosive, causing lead to leak from aging service lines to the water supply of homes throughout Flint.

In October of 2014, after about five months of using the contaminated river water, Flint switched back to Lake Huron hoping to solve the problems that residents faced from having the river as their only source of water. These problems include damage to the heart, kidney, and nerves. This exposure to lead created a risk of loss in hearing, delayed puberty, behavioral disorders, and impaired cognition in children.  In pregnant women, lead exposure can cause reduced fetal growth.

Unfortunately, the switch back to Lake Huron was too late. The pipes in Flint were already too contaminated to easily fix, with lead leaking into the water from Lake Huron as well. Consequently, the city of Flint has been receiving poisonous water for nearly three years now.

So what was the government’s response to the crisis? How have the people of Flint been aided during these past few years? What actions will be taken now and in the future to try to get Flint the water that they desperately need?

Find out next week when we will delve deeper into the government’s response to Flint in part 2 of our Realities of Flint Michigan Series.