Saturday, April 17, 2021

Lead in the water supply in Flint, MI


One of the biggest disasters of modern governance has happened in Flint, Michigan, where unsafe levels of lead have been found in the water supply, putting residents, notably young children, at risk of brain damage and other disease states.

Signs of urban decay in Flint, Mich. (James Martin / iStock)

The city of Flint was under an emergency management plan, with a series of emergency managers appointed by Gov Rick Snyder, a Republican. Flint is a city near Detroit that is mostly in poverty and has about 100,000 residents, the majority of whom are African-American.

In an attempt to save money, the city’s emergency manager decided to get water from a water supply system that was still under construction but, during the construction, to get water from the Flint River, abandoning the previous water supply used by the city, which came from Lake Huron by way of Detroit. When, in 2013, the City Council approved joining that cheaper regional water system and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality decided not to add chemicals to prevent corrosion of pipes to the stopgap system, it allowed harm to be caused to the citizens of the city because lead has leached into the water supply (timeline).

Don’t get me wrong: the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was made aware that kids in Flint were showing up with high levels of lead in their blood. Researchers suggested something was “in the water” where so many of these children lived. But state environmental officials ignored those results and criticized the researchers. “Relax,” they told the people of Flint, all as the pipes were leaching more poison into the water system.

Many local people believe this water contamination may be the tip of an iceberg that results from continued and repeated failure on the part of government to maintain quality infrastructure in the US. Whether or not that’s true or even part of the story from Flint, the city is still without clean water. Gov Snyder activated the National Guard earlier this week as officials are finally acknowledging a spike in Legionnaire’s Disease in the area, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is coming to help.

“I’m glad the state is putting in resources and we welcome the Michigan National Guard with open arms,” an Associated Press report quoted Flint Mayor Karen Weaver as saying in a statement. “However, we also need federal assistance as we continue to cope with this man-made water disaster.”

Several schools have also been affected, and reported that donations of clean water have started to roll in after the Flint Community Schools said what the schools need most, right now, is clean water. So far:

  • 4,000 gallons of water came from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. (The Flint Diaper Bank, Hurley Children’s Hospital and United Way are partnering with the food bank for the effort.)
  • Bristol Road Church of Christ will be donating water for the Flint School District and their families, hoping to inspire other local churches.
  • Two local Home Depot stores donated 84 cases of water, and a Sam’s Club donated 72 cases this week.

How can you donate water to people in Flint schools?

Tax-deductible donations can be made to neighborhood schools between 9 AM and 3:30 PM any weekday.

Larger donations should be taken to the district’s maintenance and operations building, 3086 East Court Street, before 2:30. For more information or to schedule a drop-off, call Mike Loll at (810) 760-1310, extension 1.

Because of the higher level of athletic activity at the high schools, they are in “great need” of water, the district has said.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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