Like many cities in the area, Flint, Michigan gets its water from the world’s largest collection of fresh water bodies, the Great Lakes. Or at least it used to, until the state of Michigan decided to switch Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the notoriously dirty Flint River in April 2014. Shortly after the switch, fecal coliform bacterium (a potential E. coli precursor), iron, and chlorine, among other contaminants were detected in the water.
But wait, there’s more. Since the water was not properly treated, lead from the pipes system seeped into the water. For nearly two years the city and state repeated that everything was fine and that the water supply was safe to drink and use.
In January 2015 the city warned residents that the water contained byproducts of disinfectants used in an attempt to clean up the river. These chemicals could cause a variety of issues in drinkers, including an increased risk for cancer over time.
Later that month, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department offered to reconnect Flint to Lake Huron and waive the cost, but city officials declined, stating that it would be too expensive in the long run.
In March 2015 City Council members voted to stop using water from the Flint River, but the efforts were road blocked when officials from the state government again deemed the switch too expensive.
Do you see the pattern here? Over 40% of Flint citizens live below the poverty line. In addition, almost 60% are African-American. Government representatives have denied that these factors impacted their repeated decision to deny nearly 100,000 people clean water. Finally, in October 2016, the city switched back to Detroit water.
On December 14, 2015 the city of Flint declared a state of emergency. A month later the Michigan National Guard was mobilized to help distribute clean water to citizens. From that day until now, the crisis erupted into a giant blame game. A multitude of criminal investigations have been launched and it appears that no one is completely innocent. From city administrators, to the governor of Michigan, and everyone in between, accusations of greed and negligence have run rampant.
Now it is 2017, and while most of the water in the city is no longer brown, residents are still advised to use lead filters before drinking since any water passing through the lead service pipes may be contaminated.
The state of Michigan had 16 electoral votes in the 2016 presidential election and the state voted Republican for the first time since the 1980’s. Many Michigan Democrats blame citizens in usually left-swinging counties like Genesee County, home to Flint, for not voting. But really, would you vote if your city and state poisoned your water supply to save some money? Would you believe that your voice mattered to anyone? Doubtful.