In an effort to $4 million a year, Flint, Michigan switched their water supply in April 2014 from Lake Huron to the Flint River and have, in turn, poisoned their citizens with lead.
The water from the river was much more corrosive, causing lead found in plumbing materials to leech into tap water and poison citizens.
Cities like Detroit treat their water with orthophosphate to avoid problem like this, but Flint did not.
Exposure to lead can cause irreversible neurological damage to infants and children. Children can also experience reductions in IQ and attention deficit disorders.
Lead in adults can have neurotoxic effects and cardiovascular problems, as lead is considered a probable human carcinogen.
The United States Public Health Service told the “New York Times” that it had measured lead levels of up to 13,200 ppb, which is a level that even water filters cannot make safe to drink.
An untargeted study of Flint found lead levels well over what the EPA would consider dangerous.
The CDC defines an elevated blood lead level as five micrograms of lead in a deciliter of blood. The number of children who are five years old or younger with elevated lead levels has doubled since the switch to the Flint River. A total of 200 cases has been documented.
Without data on each home’s lead levels, it is hard to determine how many people have been exposed as blood levels recede quickly.
Aside from lead, other dangerous substances and organisms have been found in the tap water in Flint, including total coliform bacteria – a bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease – and trihalomethanes, which are potential carcinogens.
The water is also discolored, – the result of excessive iron – which can be harmful because it counteracts the chlorine that is put in the water to kill pathogens.
In addition to lead poisoning, the water is known to cause rashes, hair loss, and other widespread issues.
The city of Flint switched back to using Lake Huron in October 2015, but the corrosion was substantial enough that there are still dangerous amounts of lead and other substances in the tap water indefinitely.
In order to fully fix the problem, Flint will have to re-do all of the plumbing, which will cost an estimated $800 million – a large sum of money compared to the $4 million they were trying to save by switching water sources.
Citizens are angry, and they are calling the switch irresponsible.
Flint switched to using water from a river in an area of the country infamous for industrial pollution without doing anything to check to make sure the water was not poisoned.
“It is really sad to think that so many helpless people are now facing lifelong health problems because people could not be bothered to check to see if the water was safe,” says sophomore Emma Gentile.
In an effort to fix the mess, the Michigan National Guard, state police, and many volunteers have been distributing water testing kits, water filters, and bottled water to residents.
The state has allocated $28 million for medical assessments and nurses’ visits for potentially lead-exposed children.
Governor Rick Snyder may face personal fallout for the water crisis.
“I think someone needs to take responsibility and receive punishment for ruining the lives of citizens,” says sophomore Domonic Micalizzi.
Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette announced an independent inquiry into the Flint crisis, and congressional hearings might lead to further investigation.
The Federal Justice Department has also said it is investigating the Flint crisis, which could lead to criminal charges or a civil suit being filed.
Mayor Dayne Walling referred to the water supply transition as a “historic moment for the city of Flint to return to its roots and use our own river as our drinking water supply.” It seems that the historic moment lies less within the return to the river and more in the contamination and poisoning of helpless citizens.
How would you feel if your drinking water was contaminated?