Water pollution is not only unjust but also hazardous as exhibited by the tragic water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The absolute disregard for the health of Flint residents has left many people across the entire country wondering whether their drinking water is safe. The full extent of the health risks posed by the pollution has not yet been established. However, some of the health consequences of the polluted water include rashes and lead poisoning.
The irony is that Flint is about 70 miles from the shores of the Great Lakes, the largest group of freshwater bodies across the globe. According to researchers at Virginia Tech, they still detected lead levels in properly treated water in Flint homes after reverting to Lake Huron’s supply.
The water pollution crisis in Flint emanated from many factors including some structural problems that are much harder to address. However, the whole problem is centered on the history of political dysfunction and environmental disasters associated with the Flint River.
Almost two years ago, the state of Michigan made the decision to shift Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to Flint River. The switch was meant to be temporary as a new state-run supply line to Lake Huron was ready for connection. Considering the financial state of emergency, the project was expected to take at least two years.
The locals of Flint know the river for its filth. According to researchers at Virginia Tech, the water flowing from Flint River is highly corrosive. To be exact, it’s up to nineteen times more corrosive than the supply from Lake Huron.
This was the failure of the State Department of Environmental Quality to treat the water with an anti-corrosive agent as required by the federal law. As a result, the water was eroding the iron water pipes, turning the water brown and making it dangerous to consume. Also, failure to adequately treat the water led to the leaching of lead into the water supply, from the lead service lines that make up about half of the service lines to homes in Flint. According to experts, 90% of the problems with Flint’s water could have been avoided if the state had acted as required by the federal law to add an anti-corrosive agent.
The state of Michigan switched its water supply to Flint River. Residents started complaining of a funny look, color, and taste of the water, followed by an increasing number of cases of rashes and high lead levels in children.
With lead poisoning being irreversible, it is possible that the children who tested with high lead levels will suffer lifelong consequences. As a well-known potent neurotoxin, lead has multigenerational impacts. It is known to affect one’s behavior, drop IQ, and has an association with criminality. Lead exposure can cause learning disabilities and developmental delays. Therefore, there is a need for the residents and government to take environmental actions to help alleviate exposure to these pollutants.
As a result of the current lead levels still in the water, the state is now supplying residents with bottled water and filters. This is in addition to the Mayor’s initiative designed to replace all lead service lines in the city. The initiative is targeting neighborhoods with the highest number of children under six years, pregnant women, senior citizens, and people with compromised immune systems first.
On the part of the state, it is important to ensure that the residents have access to the necessary resources to enhance the mitigating actions. There’s the need to provide adequate services to the families and children of Flint. The state has proven slow to move in the early months of this crisis. We can only hope that the pressure of national attention forces their hand.