After Two Years of Unclean Water, Flint Expected to Wait Two More Years
The state of Flint’s water crisis has become increasingly grim since it began in 2014, yet there is finally talk of its citizens finally being able to have clean water — in 2019. According to CNN, a letter by Flint’s Mayor Karen Weaver was written earlier this week in which she informed Environmental Protection Agency officials that Flint will remain unable to treat its water for another two years. She then began to cite a construction process that would be required for a water treatment plan.
“To expedite completion of the project and minimize cost, a design/build project delivery method is proposed. Based on this approach, an August 2019 completion date is anticipated for the treatment plant improvements.”
Flint’s water crisis began in late 2014 when the city’s water source was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River, in an effort to save money. The water from Flint River is known by locals to be “filthy” and is historically proven to have always been corrosive, and as stated by the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources:
“[The water] was severely degraded during the 1970s, due to ‘the presence of fecal coliform bacteria, low dissolved oxygen, plant nutrients, oils, and toxic substances.’”
A study done by Virginia Tech found that the water is 19 times more corrosive than in Lake Huron, and, so far, these measures have yet to improve.
A CNN article reports that in a class-action lawsuit, it was revealed that the State Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t treating the water with an anti-corrosive agent (that is estimated to cost a mere $100 a day), which violates federal law. Even still, the water remained untouched, eroding into the iron water mains. In addition to the iron, because half of these service lines are to homes in Flint and are made of lead, the corrosive water is causing lead from the many of the city’s underground pipelines to contaminate the city’s drinking water supply, as well as iron.
There is believed to be as many as 20,000 damaged underground service lines in Flint, all due to the usage of Flint River water.
This has been the case for Flint for almost two years, and up until as recently as September 2016, both state and city officials reassured residents that the water was safe, with former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling drinking a cup of the contaminated water on Flint’s local television channel TV5 to prove his case. However, when Mayor Walling drank the contaminated water on air, the water was in an opaque coffee mug, causing many of the residents to be skeptical as to whether or not he was drinking Flint’s brown drinking water.
When the city re-discovered fecal coliform bacteria in the water, multiple advisories were sent out to boil water. However, these advisories were soon lifted within a few days when the water supply was flushed out with chlorine. Yet once more, the water remained untouched of the anti-corrosive agent.
Despite these efforts made by officials to reassure citizens of their water supply, the effects the contaminated water has had on Flint residents is difficult to ignore. On January 13, 2016, The Atlantic reported that Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder announced that there was an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint, with over 80 cases and 10 deaths within the past two years. Although it has yet to be confirmed whether or not this outbreak was due to the switch in water, the disease is well-known to be caused by poor water management, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to an interview done by Detroit News, Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor, stated that there was a research proposal in which he and his team expected a Legionnaires’ outbreak. He goes on to say:
“We’d just done research that said if someone doesn’t add corrosion controls, you should expect higher cases of Legionella.”
Along with Legionnaires’ disease, Flint citizens are being affected by the lead in their water as well. The Washington Post reports that residents complained of their water for 18 months before a Flint physician found dangerously high blood lead levels in the children of Flint, even though the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had stated numerous times and in previous instances that the water was safe to drink. Flint’s very own water officials began to file papers in response to these findings claiming that tests and studies were done at Flint’s water treatment plant and no lead was found. Testing was also done in residents’ homes, where results showed lead at “acceptable” levels. However, it was soon discovered that these documents were falsified, as they stated these results were from testing homes with lead service lines when there was no way of actually knowing which lines were lead. MLive reported this, as it was proven in the city’s own documents, given through the Freedom of Information Act. The houses in which these tests were conducted were houses with underground plumbing made of anything but lead, such as copper; some materials couldn’t even be identified. This was later confirmed in November 2015, after MLive released an article and revealed the practice. The article reported:
“Water samples sent to state labs for testing in the first six months of this year were all marked as having come from homes with lead service lines, but actually almost always came from homes at less risk of lead leaching — houses with underground plumbing made of copper, galvanized steel or materials that could not be identified.”
Although ignored by officials, these lead levels have been made apparent in many of Flint’s citizen’s children, such is the case with Lee-Ann Walter’s children. Walter’s children, twin boys named Gavin and Garrett, suffered the consequences of the water switch. In an interview done with MotherJones, Lee-Ann revealed that both children began getting severe rashes when in contact with Flint’s river water until she brought them both to the doctor. It was soon discovered that Gavin had lead poisoning. And it isn’t just Gavin — according to USNews as many as 6,000 to 12,000 children had been exposed to lead poisoning, all having to do with the water.
No one is safe from Flint’s water crisis-it is affecting all citizens of all ages. Celebrities such as Big Sean and Meek Mill have decided to take matters into their own hands by donating thousands of dollars, in an effort to lessen the trauma and hardships Flint’s citizens have been forced to endure the last two years. However, Michigan’s officials have yet to address the issue with an appropriate amount of urgency. Mayor Karen Weaver firmly believes there is no other route other than to wait for another two years for her plan to take effect-meanwhile, Flint still remains in crisis.