The water crisis in Flint, Michigan that received an enormous amount of attention in the past few months is not a recent phenomenon nor is it a simple drinking water contamination crisis that resulted in minor consequences. The Flint Water Crisis is a culmination of a much longer ongoing disaster, one caused by politics and incompetence.
The major turning point of the Flint water crisis was when the city switched its water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in April 2014. This switch was made as a cost-saving measure for the underprivileged, black-majority city. Soon after, residents began to complain about the water’s color, taste and odor and the visible effects on their bodies including rashes. In the worst cases, carcinogens in the water caused death.
Many politicians argue that although the definite cause of the water crisis was the switching of water sources, it is also the product of a variety of much larger structural problems that are much more difficult to address. Besides economic factors, this includes a long history of environmental disasters and political dysfunction. But what most people do agree on is the fact that it was the way Flint mishandled water treatment that primarily caused the severity of the crisis.
Whatever the cause may have been, people’s concerns were only getting louder as the lead levels in Flint’s water became intolerable. Eighteen months after the switch in water source, researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled.
Although lead levels lower than 15 parts per billion (ppb) in water for any use are acceptable, no levels of lead in drinking water are entirely safe. A sampling conducted by Dr. Marc Edwards compared the lead levels in Detroit and Flint. In Detroit, Flint’s initial water supply, the 90th percentile reading was 2.3 ppb. In Flint water, on the other hand, the 90th percentile reading among nearly 300 Flint homes read 27 ppb. More shockingly, the highest level found in Flint was 13,000 ppb.
Researches state that levels as low as 5 ppb of lead is a cause for concern. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a lead level of 5,000 ppb to be toxic waste, meaning some families consumed an unacceptable amount of liquid poison as the response from Flint city government to the worried people was that “Flint water is safe to drink.”
Exposed children are at risk for a number of problems including lower IQ scores, developmental delays, and behavioral issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Even after lead exposure stops, the effects can last for years or even be permanent. High levels of exposure can also lead to death. Children who survive lead poisoning are likely to be left with mental retardation and behavioral disruption.
There are no known drugs to effectively reverse the developmental damage caused by lead. The children need educational enrichment programs and therapies, and will be prevented from functioning at their maximum capability.
The switch of water sources that intended to cut down on expenses resulted in serious physical and mental health detriments that require recovery costing in multiplicity of the amount saved. Lead cannot simply be purified through a filter system. Not only will Flint have to implement a new and improved water pipe, but also the government must be responsible for the permanent damages of thousands of innocent Flint residents.
There are people not that far away from you that do not have access to clean drinking water in 2016. The Flint water crisis is a serious problem that reflects the reality and questions the morality and human rights.
“What is inexplicable and inexcusable is once people figured out that there was a problem there, and that there was lead in the water, the notion that immediately families weren’t notified, things weren’t shut down. That shouldn’t happen anywhere,” president Obama said during his speech given in January in Detroit.
During the third week of March, students at Bellevue High took immediate action as the crisis arose as more problematic. Organized by the club Bending The Arc, BHS has successfully raised over $1,700 in just one week. In addition to the coin drive in selected classes, a human “bending” machine walked around school, selling water bottles for $1 and accepting donations.
The club organized various methods of fundraising, including setting up donation stations at local stores like QFC and producing a video for the wake-up to raise awareness and encourage students to take immediate actions.
All cost raised has been sent to Genesee County, Michigan where 100% of donations were guaranteed to help the families in Flint to buy filtered bottles of water as temporary solutions.
Through this fundraiser, BHS confirmed the power each student hold and the ability to turn injustice around to help make changes in this world. #staywoke, Bellevue.