Michigan water crisis endangers its citizens


Lack of clean water has long been a concern for many parts of the world. This problem has now presented itself in the United States, a phenomenon that has been going on for almost two years.

In April 2014, Flint, Michigan, switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River.

The switch was made in an attempt to save money, the decision made by state-appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley.

State-appointed emergency management was a highly controversial topic even before the Flint water crisis. The idea was rejected by voters in 2012, but Republican lawmakers put it in place anyway less than six weeks after the vote.

What caused the contamination of Flint’s water is the fact that the Flint River is not treated with anti-corrosion chemicals like Lake Huron. The water ate away at the pipes and lead leaked into the water.

Lead causes permanent mental and physical disabilities.

Legionnaires’ disease has also affected the city’s residents. Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria. The bacteria spreads through mists. The warm weather fast approaching has created the ideal breeding ground for the bacteria.

Despite the fact that only 35 percent of patients affected by Legionnaires’ had Flint water in their homes, the water is still a likely suspect for the outbreak. The time of the outbreak lines up with time of the the water switch. Legionnaires’ has infected 88 people and claimed 10 lives as of Mar. 18.

But, the real sickening part of this story is the discovery that the officials of Flint knew about the potential problems the Flint water supply had before the switch was made. Since then, many of the officials have resigned or been fired. However, the damage has been done.

Residents of Flint who have been affected will face struggles with mental and physical development for life. Lead poisoning has been known to drop one’s IQ, affect one’s behavior and has been linked to criminality. It also has multigenerational impacts.

Certain actions can help weaken exposure such as early childhood education and proper nutrition. However, this is difficult for the people of Flint, as they lack resources. Even in a city of 100,000, although dropping, the city does not have a grocery store, greatly lessening healthy food options. Businesses are closing because of the water contamination.

Additionally, In a city that relied  heavily on the auto industry, Flint’s poverty became more serious when much of the industry shut down. After all, the reason the water was switched in the first place was  due to the state of financial emergency. It was an attempt to save money.

Furthermore, many of the residents of Flint are impoverished African-Americans. This can sometimes make getting an early childhood education difficult.

To raise money and fight for these citizens, outsides forces have offered their help. Celebrated directors Ryan Cooler, Ava DuVernay, comedian Hannibal Buress and more put together a “Justice for Flint” benefit.

Despite the fact that the night of the benefit fell on the same night as the 88th Academy Awards, the overlap was unintentional. The event took place on Sunday in celebration of the last week of Black History Month.

Coogler worked with Blackout for Human Rights to organize the event.

Performances by Janelle Monae and Stevie Wonder brought attention to the crisis and raised funds for Flint.

The benefit raised $145,000 for the citizens of Flint who have been affected by the water crisis.

Students from Howard University are also lending a helping hand. They spent their spring break in Flint, collecting and distributing bottled water to residents.

The group also participated in interfaith dialogue at Flint’s Muslim House, which is a mosque and social service institution, as many of the students are Muslim.

Students also offered literacy tutoring to local students, as well as homework help to children at a local Boys and Girls Club.

Can this happen in Hawaii?

Lead pipes are now being removed in Flint to be replaced with copper ones. Because the old pipes were not treated with anti-corrosive agents, they are one of the major sources of the pollution.

But, simply replacing the pipes is not enough. People who have PVC pipes installed in their homes have still been affected by lead contamination from the city’s aging potable water distribution system.

Another part of the problem is the fact that the Flint River appears to be highly polluted to begin with. Many residents thought the announcement of the switch was not an actual possibility, as the river is known to be polluted.

In comparison, the announcement that the Flint River would be Flint’s new water source would be similar to an announcement that Oahu’s new water source would be the Ala Wai Canal.

The chloride concentration in the Flint River is high due to the road salt that is often used in colder seasons, combined with the natural salt content of the river and the chloride used to clean the water.

High chloride levels can corrode plumbing, causing the lead particles to seep into the water.

This is a problem that can happen again. Flint was a combination of many different problems happening simultaneously but any one of them can lead to a repeat of the still ongoing Flint water crisis.

In a city that relied rather heavily on its auto industry, when much of it left, Flint’s poverty became more serious. This was made apparent when Rick Snyder, the current governor of Michigan, called in emergency managers to combat the state’s financial problems, a promise he claimed he would do when he took office in 2011.

Hawaii’s main source of income is the tourism industry and although there are periods in which visitor numbers drop, the numbers will likely never drop low enough to cause the government to switch water sources to save money.

This is especially true because on Oahu, the Koolau Mountains are the island’s potable water source.

Because the water source is local and Oahu does not buy the water from any company, the need to switch due to money will likely not arise here.