Water crisis in Flint, Michigan
After the city of Flint, Michigan changed its water source from Detroit Water and Sewage Department water to the Flint River, its drinking water has experienced a series of problems, creating a serious public health danger.
But just how serious is this problem?
The decision, executed by city councilmen, served as a cost-cutting operation aimed at saving $5 million over a two-year period. The decision also involved connecting to the Karegnondi Water Authority, which would be completed as early as next year.
The purpose of the Authority is to provide and distribute raw water to areas around the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, which includes the cities of Flint, Lansing and Detroit.
Almost immediately after the April 2014 decision, most of the city’s residents began complaining about the water’s taste and appearance. A year later, another decision was made by the Flint city council to switch back to the city of Detroit’s water system.
“Flint water today is safe by all Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality standards,” Flint emergency manager Jerry Ambrose stated back in March 2015. “And the city is working daily to improve its quality.”
It was discovered that water from the Flint River had high salinity and low pH (hydrogen ion concentration) levels, causing nearby lead service pipes to crumble, exposing metal. However, the corrosive water proved to be a more serious problem than what residents had expected. Since then, state and federal agencies have pledged at least $45 million to help address the crisis.
Almost three weeks ago, President Barack Obama approved Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s request to declare a federal emergency in Flint.
“This is bigger than the city can handle financially…so we need some federal assistance,” Flint mayor Karen Weaver said at the U.S. conference of mayors in Washington, D.C. last month. “What [Snyder] talked about is a very good start, but we deserve more resources.”
Anyone who has been exposed to or drank city tap water since April 2014 was exposed to lead, but the numbers continue to rise among children more than adults since they are susceptible to lead poisoning and high blood lead levels.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now in the process of investigating the contaminated drinking water. They will also determine whether any state laws were broken in the process. As of this month, two employees of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have been suspended, and an administrator with the U.S. EPA has resigned because of the squabble.
It could be months before it’s determined how many residents have been exposed to lead. State officials continue to urge those who have been exposed to be treated immediately.