Water is essential to human life and yet, in Flint, Michigan, Governor Snyder determined that saving money was more important than providing this necessary thing to his constituents. First, a little background on Flint.
Flint, a largely industrial area, is the 7th largest city in the state of Michigan with a population of just over 100,000, per the 2010 U.S. Census. The racial makeup of Flint is 53% Black, 41% White and the rest evenly split among Native American, Asian and Other. Unfortunately, Flint has been consistently ranked in one of the top five most violent cities in the U.S. with it garnering the (not so) coveted #1 spot in 2011.
So how did this water crisis all start? Let’s go back two years to spring of 2014. CNN reports that the State decided to switch the water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a river that was known for being containing polluted and filthy water. Governor Snyder probably figured “hey, we’ll save some money and I don’t have to drink the water…let’s do it! What could go wrong??”
Well, apparently a LOT went wrong. And fast. CNN reports that Flint resident, Rhonda Kelso, told their reporter:
“The water would come in brown and my daughter was like ‘Mom … why is the water brown?’ “
Other residents reported strong odors as well. They told the authorities, but nothing was done. They were repeatedly told that the water was safe. Some residents believed them and continued to drink it while others in this cash strapped town struggled to afford bottled water to drink and cook with. For two years! Think about how much water a single person drinks and cooks with each day…even a cheap 24 pack of water costs around $4.00. Imagine a household of four people…we are talking hundreds of dollars a month. For WATER!
So what actually was going on with the Flint water? Well, the problem appears to be two fold. First, CNN reports that about half of the lines serving homes in Flint are made of lead. Second, the water from the Flint River was not being treated with an anti-corrosive agent, which is a violation of federal law. When this corrosive water went through miles of lead pipes, the residents got that nasty, orange, smelly, lead filled water. Delicious.
State and city officials ASSURED residents that this orange, smelly, putrid water was TOTALLY safe to drink, although they refused to drink it themselves. I mean, what could possibly be wrong? They lied. Through their white veneer capped politician teeth. Because the water was unsafe. SO UNSAFE. Shockingly unsafe.
They lied and said they were doing studies, which they apparently were not doing. Or they were doing them and just lying about the findings. Which one is worse? When outside groups starting doing studies they found shocking results.
In August 2014, researchers from Virginia Tech conducted a water study in Flint by sending kits to 300 homes and got 252 kits back. They found that the water coming from the Flint River is highly corrosive, up 19 times more so than the Lake Huron supply. They also report that the water contains extremely high levels of lead to the point where precautions must be taken before drinking or cooking with it. State officials continued to deny that there was an issue, even in the face of such damning evidence.
Finally, in an act that can only be described as extreme charitable kindness (note the dripping sarcasm), Governor Snyder reluctantly switched Flint’s water supply back the Lake Huron. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. As of December 2015, at least 43 people have been determined to have elevated levels of lead in their bodies, the New York Time reports. Lead is toxic to the human body and can cause a myriad of developmental problems, especially in children, such as low IQ, attention problems and stunted growth. Fantastic!
The New York Times reports
“In a scathing initial report last month, a task force appointed by Mr. Snyder found that the State Department of Environmental Quality’s response to health concerns “was often one of aggressive dismissal, belittlement and attempts to discredit these efforts and the individuals involved.” That approach, the report added, was “completely unacceptable.”
Based on these findings, the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality “resigned” i.e. took the fall for Governor Snyder’s massive boo boo. Yet, the Governor is still in office. In order to calm the poor folks down, Governor Snyder promised to provide medical care, water filters and more studies…because, as we all know, he is all ABOUT truth finding in those government sponsored studies. I mean, water filters! Medical care (after the poisoning happened). Studies! Problem solved, no??? Finally, this past week, local officials have begun to drop off bottled water to residents in an effort to quell fears that even the filters are not good enough.
Residents are still furious, and rightfully so. People are calling for Governor Snyder’s resignation, yet he denies culpability and has repeatedly passed the blame to anyone and everyone else in his administration. Typical GOP politician…pass the buck and blame everyone else. My question is this – why isn’t he facing criminal charges???
Featured image via Occupy.com