Flint water crisis requires long-term action


Cartoon by Jen Toenjes '16

Increased awareness of the 6,000-12,000 children affected by Flint’s water crisis began in April 2014, when media reports of high levels of lead in the water surfaced.  Flint was in the process of switching over to its own water treatment plant and, in the interim, disconnected from Detroit’s water supply and began using water from the Flint River which experts said would save the city $5 million in less than two years. However, the aging pipes are the weed to this problem. However, this new water source turned out to be contaminated.

In the middle of this storm is Gov. Rick Snyder. Two of Snyder’s advisers suggested Flint be switched back to Detroit’s water due to high levels of bacteria and lead contamination in the river water and pipe system being used by residents. Valerie Brader, one of those advisers, said she gave crucial evidence about the Flint River’s high acidity stating that is was making GM’s parts rust.

The other adviser, Michael Gadola, said the thought of drinking Flint river water was “downright scary.”

Both of Snyder’s advisers knew about this problem for almost two years and didn’t make their voices heard. If they had spoken up sooner, this issue wouldn’t be so severe. Snyder isn’t the only person to blame, however. Rather his whole team is at fault for pushing the  issue to the side for almost two years.

With 41.5 percent of Flint’s population sitting below the poverty line and a median household income of  $25,000,  $20,000 below Michigan’s median, it is clear that there is a socioeconomic factor involved in this crisis.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton recently spoke out on the issue during the Democratic debate in January and said,  “I’ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.”  

Living in one of these rich suburbs, we are lucky enough to receive our water directly from Lake St. Clair through our own treatment plant. Having clean drinking water is something we tend to take for granted. However, the Flint crisis has been a reality check for us, as we see how our neighbors in Flint can’t even take a shower in their own homes. There are 12,000 residents without clean, accessible water within an hour of our homes.

We could spend all day playing the blame game, but we instead should focus on finding a solution to help the people of Flint get clean water back.

One way for students to help Flint citizens immediately is through the Black Awareness Society for Education (BASE) water bottle drive for Flint. Students can drop off cases of water  in room to 184 before March 4. Interact service club is also collecting jugs of water and personal care products in Cleminson Hall before school or after school in Room 184 also before March 4.

However, there still needs to be a stronger government plan in place for a long-term solution for the problem. Water bottles are a necessary, immediate solution, yet will not fix the system as a whole.

Residents of Flint deserve a long-term solution to their lack of water, not just Tylenol for a gunshot wound. We believe that everything in the state’s power should be done to fix the pipes that are corroded and move Flint back to the Detroit water system. The people of Flint should be a priority to our state government because we would want everyone to do everything they could if it was us in their place.