Environmental Injustices of the Flint Water Crisis

Today's post is authored by MedEq's editor, Mohammed Turfe.

Still making headlines across the board is the Flint Water Crisis where 99,000 people are still suffering from diminished water quality and the effects of it. Toxically high amounts of lead has leeched into the Flint Water supply due to corrosive pipelines. From this crisis, 87 cases Legionnaire’s disease have been documented and 10 cases were fatal. Legionnaire’s disease is a type of pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria that has been found in the Flint water supply. 

From a sociological perspective, the Flint Water Crisis is an exacerbation of social and racial injustices. When complaints were originally filed two years ago, local officials downplayed the situation to the fullest extent. 

Citizens were told that the problem would be resolved with due time and the system would run smoothly. Didn’t work.

The City of Flint added chlorine to the water supply to remove the high lead concentrations. Didn't work. 

City officials advised residents to boil their water before consuming it in order to kill off bacteria. Although boiling does fulfill that purpose, it also exacerbated the concentration of lead. Still, didn't work.

The governmental response to this fiasco is nothing short of abysmal. Accordingto CNN, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Safety didn't advice Flint to add anti-corrosive agents to the water supply until a year later. When field agents conducted tests to determine how many citizens are affected, their results were tampered with to downplay the seriousness of the issue. At least 2 houses with severe lead concentrations in their water supply were explicitly removed from the study to display better results.

Essentially, Government officials at the State and Local level hung Flint out to dry.

The demographics of Flint are apparent. It is a predominately Black city that is reeling economically. According to MSNBC, 41.5% of the residents live below the poverty level. When the crisis broke out, the government took their sweet old time resolving the issue. There was no urgency until Virginia Tech researchers and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha released alarming reports about the lead concentrations in the water supply nearly 2 years later.

"Would more have been done, and at a much faster pace, if nearly 40 percent of Flint residents were not living below the poverty line? The answer is unequivocally yes,” says the NAACP. 

Unfortunately, the socioeconomic status of the Citizens of Flint resulted in unfair treatment by the government. This crisis should have been resolved, and it easily could’ve, two years ago when the original complaints were filed. In an more affluent society, paralleling with the NAACP, this issue would’ve been resolved instantly. 

This entire situation is a prime example of the health disparities MedEq fights against. People are being unfairly treated by the color of their skin and the amount of money in their bank accounts. Even in, “The greatest country in the world,” we live in a society in which the government picks and chooses who they help and in what urgency. The move to switch the water supply in the first place was one to save the city money and not one that was for the best interest of the Citizens of Flint. Despite the millions of water bottles and filters being sent out to Flint, more needs to be done. People need health insurance, medication, and to fully resolve the issue, the corrosive pipes need to be replaced. 

Hopefully a lesson is learned from this situation by the local governments. When an issue arises, it needs to be addressed and resolved right then and there. Otherwise, disaster awaits. 

References:

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/opinion/the-poisoning-of-flints-water.html?_r=

2. http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/26/us/flint-michigan-water-crisis-race-poverty/index.html

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