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The Flint Water Crisis In 2017: An Overview

The noise has died down, but what has out country done for Flint?

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Flint Water Plant

Via npr.org

It was April of 2014 when Flint city officials switched the source of Flint’s water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to the Flint river in an effort to save money. Complications ensued soon after; the first warning sign was Flint residents complaining of foul-smelling and discolored water.

Vast amounts of lead were in the water supply. While the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that no level of lead is considered safe for ingestion, 15 parts per billion or less is the safest possible level of lead contamination for water. A sample of water taken from a Flint home tested at 13,000 ppb, almost 1,000 times more than the “action level,” or level at which the contamination becomes high-risk.

High levels of lead contamination in children may cause convulsions, organ failure, neurological damage, and death. Less severe symptoms include loss of hearing, growth inhibition, and learning disabilities.

High levels of trihalomethanes, which are organic molecules linked to kidney, liver, lung, and heart complications, were present in the water supply, as well as E.Coli and Total Coliform.

There was an outbreak of Legionnaires disease due to the crisis from 2014 to 2015, and 12 people perished as a result. Legionnaires disease is a form of bacterial pneumonia, spread primarily through water droplets.

City officials’ initial response was reassuring residents that the water was “absolutely fine.” In January 2015, Detroit offered to reconnect Flint to its water system, but leaders in Flint insisted that their water was safe. This response shifted in the following months, when city officials issued a “boil water advisory” to the city.

It wasn’t until December of 2015 that Mayor Karen Weaver declared a State of Emergency in Flint. The governor of Michigan, Rich Snyder along with the President of The United States, Barack Obama followed suit and declared a State of Emergency there as well. This gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA the authorization to provide equipment and other resources to those affected. In January of 2016, the EPA also issued an order for further action to be taken, as the City of Flint and the State of Michigan’s responses were deemed inadequate.

The federal State of Emergency was lifted from Flint in August of 2016, but state officials still oversee improvements to the water system, and provide services to residents. In December of 2016, researchers reported finding no detectable level of lead in 57% of homes in Flint. This discovery still came with the caution to continue to use water filters in homes. Later that month, congress approved a bill that authorized projects to treat water across the country, which granted 170M to fix the effects of the water crisis in Flint.

In the wake of this cataclysmic failure, there are an abundance of lawsuits. The supervisor of Flint’s Water Treatment Plant, Mike Glasgow was charged with tampering with evidence, and willful neglect of duty as a public officer. Two other city officials, Stephen Busch, and Mike Prysby are charged with misconduct in office, tampering with evidence, and violating the safe water drinking act.

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