Poisoned Water

Poisoned Water

Over these last two years, something unimaginable has happened in the city Flint, Michigan. In April 2014, the city–which was under state receivership–switched its water source from Detroit to the Flint River. While implementing the switch, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality neglected to inform Flint that the city must treat its water for corrosion control–a pipe coating that keeps drinking water from becoming contaminated with lead from old water mains.

The results have been devastating. The number of Flint children who have high traces of lead in their bloodstream has doubled since the water switch was made. People were getting rashes, getting sick and slowly being poisoned.

Then the state manipulated samples in Flint’s survey of water quality (conducted over a sample of homes) to ensure the city remained under the federal threshold for nontoxic amounts of lead.

After it came out independently, over a year later, that Flint’s water was contaminated with lead, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the state if it was treating the water for corrosion control. The DEQ at first said that of course they were, but after further questioning, the agency owned up to the fact that they were not. Let’s start a tally: first, they lied to the people of Flint that their water was safe to drink, and then they lied to the federal regulators in charge of environmental protection.

The sheer ineptitude of the state government, if not criminal, is certainly of the highest rung of immorality. The DEQ possibly let thousands of children be exposed to lead, which causes irreversible developmental damage, and then continued to do so well after the truth was known. They robbed the children and citizens of Flint of healthy futures, and they robbed our state of any moral decency.

Governor Snyder needs to resign. This was a catastrophic failure of his leadership, one that could have been averted easily. The director of the DEQ, Dan Wyant, and DEQ spokesperson Brad Wurfel have already resigned. They must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, in state or federal courts. Then, in the pursuit of justice, I hope the citizens of Flint sue for the maximum possible amount.

The ironic outcome from this crisis is that the whole scheme was supposedly to save the state money by not purchasing water for Flint from Detroit. I have a feeling that this mess is going to cost the state way more than it bargained for, in returning water service to the Detroit authority and in future lawsuits. And do you know who is going to foot the bill? The taxpayers of the “great” state of Michigan. I hope we all remember that when we elect the next set of hypocrites and self serving civil servants to the legislature.

If this sounds cynical coming from an 18-year-old, that’s because it is. I’m so disappointed in my Michigan. That does not mean I dispel the thought of hope in our future, I am an optimist at heart. However, I believe that we, as a state, must take a moment to shake our heads, hold these negligent officials accountable, and try and learn something from the tragic failure of those tasked with protecting us and our environment.