Residents of Flint, Michigan have so much lead in their bloodstreams that the mayor has declared a state of emergency.
The City of Flint has experienced a man-made disaster no later than the end of December 2015,” according to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.
Weaver aimed exclusively on the threat to children’s health, calling the damage from lead poisoning as “irreversible.” Not only does lead adversely affect a child’s brain growth, however, according to Weaver, it also advances the problem to the city’s psychological health, special education, social service, and juvenile justice systems.
The state of emergency declaration comes on the heels of a September report that found the number of infants and children with above-average levels of lead in their blood had nearly doubled since the city was switched from the Detroit water system to a temporary water source in 2014.
For its pure water, Flint relied on nearby Detroit for many years. But following the economic recession hammered Detroit into bankruptcy, Flint residents and corporations found an excessive increase in water costs, moving on the town right into a 3.5-year long economic state of emergency.
Thus Flint decided to join forces together with other Detroit-reliant authorities to build a new, independent water system. But administrators calculated that it’d consider at least five years to acquire this new water program that was expensively installed and running . Therefore, in the meantime, the state hooked up the town to the 40-year old pipes funneling water from the nearby Flint River — a lake poisoned by a corrosive agent that induced lead from the pipes to leech and poison the city’s drinking water.
However it was too late for Flint citizens. In November, the people filed a class-action federal lawsuit against Snyder, the city, the state, and 13 other public officials for replacing their clean water with a “cheaper alternative that was known to be highly toxic.” Emails released through an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit show that state officials knew about the problems with the river water for months before owning up to it publicly.
Meanwhile, the town is in serious debt from the $15.7 million it took from its budget to address Detroit’s water bill hikes. That payback comes right from water costs, lifted 35 percent in 2011, which the majority were not able to pay. Regardless, the city proceeds to turn off water with bad accounts — causing the poorest residents with no access to clean water.
It’s almost identical to Detroit’s water issues, where water shutoffs in numerous low income families started citywide protest and were dubbed an official individual rights violation by the United States.
These occasions join a brief history of inequities in regards to public access to a free and sanitary water. A 2011 UN research discovered that individuals of color living in poverty in the US disproportionately lack adequate use of clear water. This claim has been recognized by experiences from water- desperate communities across the country.