Flint’s water crisis lacks accountability

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Royal Purple Staff Opinion

Feb. 2, 2016

Imagine turning on your sink and watching stinking brown water flow from the faucet. We’re guessing you’d have to be dying of thirst or monumentally hungover to drink brown tap water.

Residents of Flint, Michigan faced a similar situation as high levels of lead were detected in their water supply. Now state and local officials are pointing fingers at one another, attempting to divert blame for the disaster.

“Government failed you – federal, state and local leaders – by breaking the trust you placed in us,” Gov. Rick Snyder told the people of Flint.

Snyder is right in proclaiming government failure, but he’d be more accurate and honest in proclaiming his own administration’s mistakes by ignoring the issue, and he would do the city and state a great service with his resignation.   

Flint was declared to be in a financial state of emergency in 2011, so the state took control of the budget. Snyder appointed an emergency financial manager to cut the budget – similar to the way a corporation might take over one of its branches. Flint’s water supply was changed from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014 in an effort to save money. 

Residents immediately complained about the water quality. However, city and state officials told them the water was fine. Former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling even drank the water on TV to prove a point.

He probably feels pretty stupid now.

Researchers from Virginia Tech found that the water from the Flint River is 19 times more corrosive than the Lake Huron supply. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) wasn’t treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent – a violation of federal law – so the water was eroding their iron pipes, turning the water brown.

Researchers say that if the anti-corrosive agent had been added to the water supply, the entire crisis would have been avoided. 

Almost half of the water lines in Flint are made of lead, so the untreated, highly corrosive water became tainted with lead, along with iron.

Flint residents were given lead-tainted water for nearly two years, while city and state officials assured them the water was safe to drink.

This went on until a pediatrician, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, noticed more and more Flint parents worried about their children suffering from rashes and hair loss. She decided to check state records that included blood-lead levels in toddlers. The levels sometimes doubled and even tripled after the Flint River switch.

At first, the state denounced Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s work, but they eventually gave in and admitted she was right.  This gross misconduct by state officials cannot go unaccounted for.

The state is now handing out bottled water and filters to Flint residents – a step in the right direction, no doubt, but a step too late for the 10 lead-related fatalities already reported. 

Lead exposure can have serious lifelong effects on children. It acts as a neurotoxin, hindering brain development, causing behavioral disorders and it has multigenerational impacts. However, exposure has few obvious symptoms, so it often goes unnoticed, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

The DEQ has been burdened with the majority of the blame for the water crisis. Its director, Dan Wyant, stepped down in December.

Currently, the U.S. Attorney in Michigan and the EPA are investigating why the state did not add the anti-corrosive agent to the water supply, but they still have no answer.

Perhaps Flint is a city the governor’s office forgot about, but its lead-poisoned children are impossible to deny. We can’t force Snyder’s resignation, and it won’t erase what happened there, but but we can donate clean water and other resources, and that’s another step in the right direction.