Feb 3 • 3 min read
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By: Vanessa J. Lawrence

Two years ago, to save money, the state of Michigan switched Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron (the fifth largest freshwater lake in the world) to the Flint River (a notorious tributary that runs through town known to locals for its filth). Soon after the switch, the water started to look, smell and taste funny. Residents said it often looked dirty.

Firehydrant

A city employee flushes out a hydrant.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/11/health/toxic-tap-water-flint-michigan/

  It was actually iron. “The Flint River is highly corrosive: 19 times more so than the Lake Huron supply, according to researchers from Virginia Tech.

According to a class-action lawsuit, the state Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent, in violation of federal law. Therefore, the water was eroding the iron water mains, turning water brown.

But what residents couldn’t see was far worse. About half of the service lines to homes in Flint are made of lead and because the water wasn’t properly treated, lead began leaching into the water supply, in addition to the iron…

Adding that agent would have cost about $100 a day, and experts say 90% of the problems with Flint’s water would have been avoided.” http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/11/health/toxic-tap-water-flint-michigan/

Lead is toxic.

011916-flint-mich-lead2

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/01/19/michigan-flint-water-contamination/78996052/

There is no safe level of lead in the body. “Anyone who drank city tap water was exposed to lead, but children are more susceptible to lead poisoning than adults. Eden Wells, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said recently that all children who drank the city’s water since April 2014 have been exposed to lead. That’s 8,657 children, based on Census data.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/01/19/michigan-flint-water-contamination/78996052/

“But Flint residents say they were kept in the dark for 18 months until a local doctor took things into her own hands.

DR

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

In the pediatric ward of Flint’s Hurley Medical Center, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha was seeing more and more worried parents fretting over rashes and hair loss.” http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/11/health/toxic-tap-water-flint-michigan/

Lead poisoning has both short and long term consequences. “Lead poisoning is irreversible. Pediatricians such as Hanna-Attisha fear the Flint children who tested with elevated levels will suffer lifelong consequences.

‘If you were to put something in a population to keep them down for generation and generations to come, it would be lead,’ Hanna-Attisha said. ‘It’s a well-known, potent neurotoxin. There’s tons of evidence on what lead does to a child, and it is one of the most damning things that you can do to a population. It drops your IQ, it affects your behavior, it’s been linked to criminality, it has multigenerational impacts. There is no safe level of lead in a child.’” http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/11/health/toxic-tap-water-flint-michigan/

Is there a racial component? An economic component?

Waterfountains

POLITICO Verified account @politico

The latest political cartoon from the desk of Matt @Wuerker http://politi.co/1QmdNw7 

Flint is a relatively poor, blue-collar city of just under 100,000 people. The median income is $24,000 and 56% of the population is African-American.

Like many Flint natives, Rep. Kildee thinks race and socioeconomic factor played a role in the state’s response to the water crisis.

‘While it might not be intentional, there’s this implicit bias against older cities — particularly older cities with poverty (and) majority-minority communities,’ he said. ‘It’s hard for me to imagine the indifference that we’ve seen exhibited if this had happened in a much more affluent community.’

A cartoon from Politco’s Matt Wuerker added fire to the fuel by evoking segregationist imagery…

And at the Conference of Mayors in Washington on Wednesday, (Flint) Mayor Karen Weaver implied that had Flint been a wealthy suburb, the water problem would’ve been solved much faster.

‘It’s a minority community. It’s a poor community. And our voices were not heard,’ she said.” http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/21/health/flint-water-crisis/

This crisis is still unfolding.