Flint Water Crisis: Thousands Devastated by Lead Contaminated Water



Loy Norrix students Grant Mitchell, Nick Luttrell, Max Link and Damarquay Norman to help donate water for Flint at the Kalamazoo administration building on Howard Street, January 30th. Flint has been struggling with lead poisoned water. Photo Credit / Clayton Barker

The city of Flint, Michigan, once a booming auto industry city is now plagued with poisoned water. Unprecedented levels of lead in Flint’s water have spread through this city.
Business Finance teacher Atiba Ward who was born and raised in Flint and still has family living there said, “They think it’s pretty bad [Ward’s family]. They’re getting skin issues,” Ward continued, “It’s just a huge inconvenience to pay the bill and not have adequate water come out of the faucet.”
How it happened: Flint decided to switch water sources, leaving Detroit’s fresh Lake Huron water and instead use water from the Flint River, an economical advantage saving $19 million in 8 years. A small cost considering the death of ten people and physical damage to thousands.
The people of Flint slowly started realizing their water was poisonous, even though city officials knew long before, that indeed the water was toxic. Even if government officials knew how toxic the water was, it was never mentioned to the public.
Flint had a chance to change their water and switch back over to Detroit’s Lake Huron water. Detroit was willing to exempt Flint from paying a 4 million dollar re-signup fee; however, city officials decided not to switch back to their old, safer water source.
On September 2nd, 2015, Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards declared that the water was so corrosive it was causing lead to seep into the water saying, “On a scientific basis, Flint river water leaches more lead from plumbing than does Detroit water.”
Normal drinking water should have no amount of lead in it ever. The Flint River was found to be 19 times more corrosive than Lake Huron, according to the Virginia Tech researchers.
Drinking lead-contaminated water for anyone is harmful, but children run more risk considering their brains are still developing. The symptoms include a list of problems for lead poisoned children including: kidney damage, behavioral issues, nervous system impairment, speech impediments, both muscle and bone growth. Lead also lowers children’s I.Q. with the ability to cause seizures and death.
Adults who ingest lead also face problems, such as nervous system impairment, problems during pregnancy, digestive issues, fertility and memory problems.
Many are worried for the students of Flint and how they’re going to act in school, Loy Norrix English teacher and former Flint public school teacher Jameka Johnson said, “They’re already disadvantaged economically. They’re already so far behind without the lead poisoning, with that being included, I feel bad for their future.”
On October 1st, Genesee County (which is where Flint is located) declared a public health emergency, telling residents to not drink the water. President Barack Obama has also declared a state of emergency for Flint. Governor Rick Snyder also called in the National Guard to help distribute water to Flint’s people.
General Motors even issued a notice in 2014 stating they would cease to use Flint’s River water in factories there, fearing that it would corrode even more cars than it already had. The water contained so much lead that it abraded parts, yet the government kept insisting it was safe to drink. Residents of Flint truly started to comprehend just how terrible their water was when skin rashes became prominent. The lead water had a brown coloring and redolent smell.
Governor Snyder and Emergency City Manager Darnell Early are facing the most scrutiny for the Flint water crisis, who could’ve prevented this crisis by paying as low as 80 dollars daily to treat the water, according to Sean Kammer, Flint’s assistant to city manager. Virginia Tech’s lead researcher on the Flint water crisis Marc Edwards said, “Science alone is powerless, absolutely powerless, to these agencies. Facts mean nothing to these people. Scientific truth means nothing to them.”
Since the crisis has happened, Flint mayor Karen Weaver has estimated that it will cost between 1-1.5 billion dollars to fix the infrastructure damage and ameliorate the physical damages to the citizens.
Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha, who works for Hurley’s children’s hospital and Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine in the Department of Human Development and Pediatrics, published her findings of lead levels in children before and after Flint changed water sources. These findings are published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Dr. Attisha’s study concluded that blood lead levels increased from 2.4 percent to 6.6 percent, the highest levels of lead were found in “socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods.”
On November 13th, 2015, four families filed a class action lawsuit against Michigan Governor Snyder for violating laws that protect the water people use. Another class action lawsuit against him was filed January 14th, 2016.
Many blame Governor Snyder for his slow reaction. Snyder gave his State of the State address January 19th, 2016, where he endearingly thanked the whistleblowers who brought attention to the high levels of lead. He also promised $28 million in state funds to help Flint as well as many more bottles of water.
Governor Snyder said at his State of the State address, “You deserve better. You deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me. Most of all, you deserve to know the truth…no citizen of this great state should endure this kind of catastrophe,” Governor Snyder also said, “Government failed you — federal, state and local leaders — by breaking the trust you placed in us.”
Loy Norrix’s Link Crew helped Flint in a major way by donating over 13 thousand bottles of water. Jon Krieder, one of Link Crew’s organizer’s said, “We started talking about it [Flint’s poisoned water] in class on Monday [January 18th]. We started talking about the Flint situation in my Link Crew Class, and the kids got really fired up about it.” Krieder continued, “The number one way [to help] would be to bring in bottled water.”
Loy Norrix senior Sarah Giramia said, “If this happened in a bigger city with more balanced [diversity] amount of people, with more whites than blacks, then this wouldn’t have happened. If this happened in his [Governor Snyder’s] neighborhood, he would fix it, but because it’s happening in Flint, they’re going to take their time.”