Blindness, hallucinations, memory loss, and hair loss. These are some of the side effects of the intake of lead. Starting in April of 2014 the residents of Flint, Michigan were exposed to lead in their own water because of the failure of government representatives to protect them from this exposure. The incident drew national attention because researchers at Virginia Tech conducted water quality testing.
In April of 2014, the state government allowed Flint’s city government to switch the water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of all this is that the decision was made to save money. “The first thing should have been to test the water before making the switch but the emergency manager that was appointed assured residents it was a ‘win-win’ and that it was a short term switch to save the city millions,” says Karanja Cook, the staff member at the Peter Paul Development Center in Richmond, Virginia who coordinated their Flint response. What were the consequences of saving 5 million dollars? The entire population of Flint, Michigan was forced to drink and bathe in lead contaminated water. Up to 8,000 children have lived in these conditions. Because
there were initially no viable alternatives, the impoverished citizens of Flint had no choice but to consume the lead as they used and drank the water.
For nearly two years, the situation in Flint was relatively unknown on the national level, and officials defended the quality of the water. “Local officials even went on local news stations assuring residents that the water was safe to drink,” Cook stated. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Governor of Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality are all responsible for looking over the environment, and all failed to catch the lead contaminants.
Nearly two years after this all started, a state of emergency was declared on January 5, 2016.
How can the people of Flint, Michigan be helped? There are a few options to choose from. The people of Flint can be helped by online donations
and funding through programs such as the “Flint Water Fund” by Char-em United Way or the “Flint Child Health and Development Fund” by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
In addition to online funding, there are local options to help such as the water bottle drive the Peter Paul Development Center in Richmond has held to provide for the people in need. The charities and aid centers such as the local American Red Cross and Salvation Army will always accept donations, as well. Another method of contributing to the cause is to support the researchers who have helped keep the public informed about the issue, the Flint Water Study team at Virginia Tech, by donating through their GoFundMe page. Finally, a method of assistance would be to contact Michigan government officials such as Governor Snyder to help make clear their failures in order to prevent future instances of inhumane water contamination.
Photos courtesy of Fahim Rahman