Flint, Michigan gained national attention in 2014 after the contaminated water crisis sparked civic outrage. In 2011, the state of Michigan reclaimed economic authority from local officials after an accounting audit projected a $25 million dollar deficit. The transition to an emergency management team rendered elected officials powerless and democracy inapplicable. The emergency managers decided that the city could save money by switching from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to another vendor, Karegnondi Water Authority. The transition between vendors would take two years, so for twenty four months officials decided that the municipal river would be the main source of water for the city.
However, local authorities did not immediately treat the river water with corrosive control to ensure that the copper, lead, and steel pipes would not rust. Instead, a choice was made to save money and break the law. Governor, Rick Snyder and his emergency management team waited 18 months before acting, even though they knew that the water had not been treated . On May 4, 2016, President Barack Obama visited Flint. He drank filtered water on national television and incorrectly stated that Flint’s water was now safe to drink.
Days since Flint, Michigan has had clean drinking water: 1,230+
Today, there is an estimated 27,000 residences with lead tainted water pipes. The drinking water is now in compliance with federal regulations on lead and copper content, but residents are still encouraged to drink bottled water for three reasons. One, because the infrastructure that delivers the water is still contaminated with rusted lead and copper. Two, because federal regulations only address lead and copper, not bacteria, chlorine, carcinogens; trihalomethanes, chloroform, and dichlorobenzene or natural biological waste. It also disregards industrial and human waste, untreated waste intentionally or accidentally dumped into the river, toxic pollution from bombs, and contaminants washed into the river by rain or snow. Thirdly, because the state issued filters are not 100% effective in filtering lead. They are made of a material that when interacting with hot water, composes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. The materiel is ineffective for the long periods of time that water flows for bathing and showering.
Today, the state is in the process of closing five of the nine water distribution centers. There are 9,000 children under the age of six that have been exposed to lead at toxic levels, while 27,000 people have lead poisoning. More than twelve people have died from legionnaires, which is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria. Water bills in Flint are the highest of any water system, in any city or state, in all of the United States.
“Flint was poisoned on purpose. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t an oversight. It was deliberate action taken against a people that could not defend themselves.”
With a population of 98,297, Flint makes up .0003% of the entire United States of America. Once, the home of a flourishing automobile industrial economy, Flint is now a city where 40.8% of residents live below the poverty line and the median household income is $25,900. The unemployment rate is 9%, which is double the national average. 11.8% of residents hold a bachelor degree and there are 827 violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year. In 2014, Michigan had a higher incarceration rate than Cuba, Russia and Iran. And today, Flint is the third most dangerous city in America.
The citizens of Flint were the perfect victims because they are the poster children for American powerlessness. Barack Obama was the perfect figurehead to deflect attention from this act of environmental racism because a Black man reassuring a predominately Black town that everything was alright soothed the angst of all our Black asses outside of Flint. We got to turn off our televisions, drink out of our taps, turn to other causes, and go back to our live but Flint’s residents didn’t have that luxury.
“To be nobody is to be abandoned by the state. It’s easier to die if others are dying around you. It’s easier to leave. It’s easier to lie. It’s harder to build than to destroy because to build is to engage and change.”
As of right now, in September 2017 the people of Flint are still very much so under attack. In addition to being poisoned, they are fighting for success in life despite a corrupt government, a poor economy, high crime rates, low education, and an attention deficit society that moves swiftly from cause to cause. Presently, the people of Flint are battling the psychological trauma of being abandoned and repeatedly lied to. Today, right now, in September 2017, Jordan Chariton from The Young Turks has been one of the only journalist consistently on the ground amplifying the muted cries of constituents fighting for their homes. Residents still suffer rashes, hair thinning and teeth falling. Parents are watching their children deteriorate from lead poisoning and since 2016, 91 more people have been diagnosed with legionnaires. Today, right now, in September 2017, Flint’s residents are fighting for us to pay attention because their fight is far from over.