Third World Problem… First World Crisis

Lead-laced water pipes; hundreds of children diagnosed with high levels of lead poisoning; nearly a dozen people dead from Legionnaires disease. No, these are not highlights from a third world country’s crisis; it’s what’s happening just one hour north of Detroit in Flint, MI. How could a switch simply bring such harm?

For nearly two years, residents of Flint are still reeling from contaminated drinking water. City officials made the cost-saving decision to switch from Detroit’s water supply to the Flint River. Residents immediately noticed the difference in their water by the putrid smell and the brown appearance.

Prior to the switch, the city of Flint purchased their water from Detroit. But in recent years, the city has fallen on hard times. Flint took a hard hit when the automobile industry nearly folded from which more than half of the city was employed. As a result, car and truck factories have closed down or moved out of the city, leaving it desolate, dilapidated and poor.

So, how could a simple switch bring so much harm? Simple…neglect. The Michigan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with Flint city officials, failed to treat the water with a simple additive that would coat the pipes and prevent lead from leaching into the water supply. This corrosive control mechanism is a small cost compared to the costly problem the city is now facing.

This crisis is far from over. It has gained national attention. Celebrities from Cher and Flint native Michael Moore have voiced their opinions for the resignation and arrest of Governor Rick Snyder. The National Guard has been called into help with the crisis. President Obama has declared a national emergency, releasing funds to help bring in clean water and countless pallets of bottled water are shipped into the city daily.

No, it’s not a third world country that’s in need of clean water. It’s an American city down on its luck; now needing the help of Americans to a supply a basic living necessity for a first world crisis.