By Dylan Lenzen
There seems to be no relief for those who call Flint, MI home. Residents there have been victims of some extremely shortsighted management decisions, driven by supposed cost-savings, for which residents have been forced to pay for in the form of horrendous health effects. The latest result of these decisions has been the declaration of a state of emergency in order to cope with the fallout.
It all started when city officials decided to stop purchasing drinking water from Detroit in April 2014, with plans for building a new pipeline to draw drinking water from Lake Huron. The only problem is that the pipeline is not set to be completed until 2016, which meant that in the meantime, drinking water would come from the Flint River. Almost immediately after making the switch, residents began complaining of negative health effects including skin lesions, hair loss, chemical-induced hypertension, vision loss and depression. There were also repeated detections of elevated levels of coliform bacteria and trihalomethanes, for which the side-effects of ingestion include liver and kidney issues, as well as cancer.
Despite these warning signs and repeated demands of residents to switch back to Detroit drinking water, City leaders did nothing more than treat the water with excess amounts of chlorine and administer boil advisories. City officials repeatedly made claims throughout this period that the water remained safe to drink. At the same time, residents who noticed discoloration of the water and continued to experience horrible health effects took all steps possible to avoid drinking the water. As a result, residents were forced to choose between purchasing large quantities of costly bottled water to protect their families, or pay later in the form of health consequences from drinking the highly toxic Flint River water.
In September of this year, the complaints of city residents were supported by the release of a key study on blood lead levels of Flint children. Over the 18 months that this saga has unfolded, the number of children experiencing above average levels of lead in their blood has more than doubled.
Following the release of this troubling study, Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, finally made the decision to come up with the necessary funds to switch back to Detroit water. In addition, a state of emergency has been declared by Flint mayor, Karen Weaver, in recognition of these results and the inadequate amount of special education and mental health services needed to deal with them.
Parents and other city residents have filed a lawsuit, seeking damages for the irreversible effects of lead toxicity that the decision to source water from the Flint River has created. In the words of Flint residents filing the lawsuit, “the deliberately false denials about the safety of the Flint River was as deadly as it was arrogant.”