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Flint Michigan Water Crisis

Introduction

Flint Michigan water crisis started on April 25, 2014, when Michigan switched Flint’s water supply from Detroit River and Lake Huron to the Flint River in an effort to help the already struggling city to cut cost. Due to poor water treatment, however, the individuals responsible unwittingly supplied lead-poisoned water to homes resulting in a substantial public health crisis. More than 100,000 residents were exposed to the chemical component as lead leached from the pipes that supplied water.

Facts-Flint Michigan Water Crisis

 

In 2011, Flint’s finances were taken over by the State of Michigan after audit reports indicated that the city had incurred a $25 million deficit. To bridge the water fund gap, the city indicated that it would construct a new pipeline to supply water from Lake Huron. While it was still under construction, however, a decision was made to deliver water to the city from Flint River. Immediately after the switch, residents made repeated complaints that the water tested and smelled funny. Despite this, however, the community had to endure the escalating crisis for several months before the government could intervene. The response from the state government came after Flint residents, physicians, and scientists came together to investigate the effects of lead poisoning that were slowly unfolding within the Flint community. The scientific studies conducted indicated proved the presence of lead contamination in the water that was being used by residents. In January, the state government declared a state of emergency and residents were asked to drink only filtered or bottled water. They were also asked to avoid using water supplied from the Flint River to cook, bath, or clean.

Examples-Flint Michigan Water Crisis

On April 16, 2013, Michigan’s city of Flint became part of a regional water system in an effort to save money by obtaining its supply of water from Lake Huron as opposed to buying filtrated water from Karegnondi Water Authority in Detroit. Unfortunately, it would take more than 3 years for the city to use the new pipeline system. To meet the pressing demand for water, the management of the city decided to obtain the resource from the Flint River without any precautious water testing (Kaffer, 2015). The water from the river was more than ten times more corrosive compared to the other sources of water. Consequently, using it as an alternative would corrode the already aging pipeline system resulting in the lead at solder joints and along service lines to leach into drinking water (Carmody, 2016). It did not take long before residents noticed that water they were used to had changed (Reilly, 2017). Some residents notice that they were losing hair. Moreover, the water had turned to a murky color and was producing an abnormally strong smell.

The Flint Michigan water crisis had a great impact on human-environmental interactions. According to Binns (2015), children were the most negatively impacted of all age groups.  According to the research reported by the author, nearly10, 000 children representing 12% of the total Flint’s population or nearly half of all children aged below 18 years were exposed to harmful levels of lead water during the crisis. According to the National Center for Environmental Health under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), lead levels that exceed 5 micrograms per deciliter lower the ability of children to learn. Students with blood lead levels in the range of 5 to 9 micrograms have been found to perform poorly in reading readiness tests. Those whose lead levels range from 10 to 19 micrograms for every deciliter perform even worse.  On the other hand, those with concentrations above 25 micrograms have been found to need special attention.

A research conducted by Laidlaw, Filippelli, Sadler, Gonzales, Ball, and Mielke (2016) from September to December of 2014 found that seven percent of children living in Flint had the blood lead level that exceeds 5 micrograms for every deciliter. Compared to the previous year, the level of blood lead had increased by nearly 1.4 grams. In a similar research conducted by Hanna-Attisha, LaChance, Sadler, and Champney Schnepp (2016), it was established that cases of elevated blood lead levels had doubled among Flint children over the period of the crisis. In severe areas, the percentage of children with blood lead levels above the 5 μg/dL had even tripled. This figure simply means that apart from being affected by poverty and malnutrition, Flint children had to fight the effect of high levels of lead in the blood.

Discussion-Flint Michigan Water Crisis

Flint, a city in Michigan that had previously used water from Lake Huron, switched sourcing its drinking water to Flint River in 2014. The main purpose was to cut cost following a large financial deficit. The residents continued to use this contaminated water for approximately 12 months before concerns were raised about bacteria and lead contamination that made the water to have an abnormal smell, taste, and color. Within a few days, a federal state of emergency was declared all across Michigan. According to a story written by CNN (2016), approximately half of the city’s population lives below the poverty level, majorly as a result of the collapse of the manufacturing sector. The city’s population is approximately 98,310 individuals according to the US census of 2016.

Even before any government had been involved in the switching the source of water for Flint, Flint River had already been polluted for many years. Consequently, there was a need for it to be processed thoroughly before being used for domestic purposes. According to Carmody (2016), tens of millions of gallons of waste, both human and industrial, found its ways into the river in 1999 when a contractor that was digging a trench near its banks burst a pipe belong to the Flint Wastewater Treatment Plant. Moreover, the author reports that illegal disposal of waste by companies had been taking place for a long time despite the established environmental regulations. Consequently, the water from the river was contaminated with bacteria. This combined with chlorine from the industrial effluents, the product would be carcinogenic substances that would raise the level of water acidity. When pumped into the supply system, the acidic water would corrode the lead pipes. In the end, the lead would dissolve in the drinking water, resulting in serious health problems among the residents of Flint city.  According to Carmody (2016), long-term exposure to lead can cause irreversible development complications among children. It has been found to delay puberty and to cause impaired cognition. A number of health problems that include kidney and heart have also been attributed to high levels of lead in the body.

It is evident that many families living in Flint at the time of the crisis were subjected to great traumatic effects. Unlike other types of crisis that have occurred in the past, the residents of Flint that had drunk the contaminated water would not have realized that their blood lead levels had increased without being tested. As a matter of fact, most children and families would not have known that they were being exposed to harmful levels of lead if the matter had not been made public. The general expectation is that the situation would have remained unchanged until today.

Summary-Flint Michigan Water Crisis

 

Flint Michigan water crisis began on April 25, 2014, following the decision to switch the city’s water supply from Detroit River and Lake Huron to the Flint River in an effort to help the already struggling city to cut cost. The authorities responsible seemed unaware that the river had already been polluted for many years. In 1999, for instance, tens of millions of gallons of waste, both human and industrial, found its ways into the river when a contractor that was digging a trench near the bank burst a pipe belong to the Flint Wastewater Treatment Plant. Illegal disposal of waste by companies had also been taking place for a long time despite the established environmental regulations. The chlorine from the industries combined with the bacteria contained in the wastes produced carcinogenic byproducts that were predominately responsible for raising the level of acidity of the water. Due to this raised PH level, the lead used to make the pipeline system started to leach into drinking water. It did not take long before residents noticed that water they were used to had changed. Some residents noticed that they were losing hair. Additionally, the water had turned to a murky color and was producing an abnormally strong smell. However, it took more than 12 months for the authorities to respond to complaints filed by residents.

The crisis had a great negative impact on the environment. Moreover, children were the most adversely affected among all human groups. Nearly half of all children aged below 18 years were exposed to harmful levels of lead water during the crisis.  Additionally, the incident resulted in increased blood lead levels among them. Lead has been found to decrease intelligence among children. It also affects their development and behavior. The devastating poison that children were exposed to in 2014 following the crisis can affect the capacity of children to make a good decision since it damages the brains and erodes creativity in addition to affecting various neurological functions. To mitigate these effects, there is a need for parents to enroll their children for early childhood education programs.

 

 

 

 

References

Binns, H. J. (2015). Educational interventions for children affected by lead. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services.

Carmody, T. (2016). Factories and people have been dumping sewage, chemicals, and road salt in the Flint River for more than a century. The Verge. Retrieved fromhttp://www.theverge.com/2016/2/26/11117022/flint-michigan-water-crisis-leadpollution-history

Carmody, T. (2016). How the Flint River got so toxic. The Verge, 26.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Educational interventions for children affected by lead. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016). Blood lead levels among childrenaged <6 years – Flint, Michigan, 2013-2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6525e1.htm

CNN (May 5, 2016). Flint water crisis fast facts. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint

Hanna-Attisha, M., LaChance, J., Sadler, R. C., & Champney Schnepp, A. (2016). Elevated blood lead levels in children associated with the Flint drinking water crisis: a spatial analysis of risk and public health response. American journal of public health, 106(2), 283-290.

Kaffer, N. (2015). Year before water change, state knew of risks in Flint. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved from https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/nancy-kaffer/2015/11/07/flint-lead-water/75268692/ .

Laidlaw, M. A., Filippelli, G. M., Sadler, R. C., Gonzales, C. R., Ball, A. S., & Mielke, H. W. (2016). Children’s blood lead seasonality in flint, Michigan (USA), and soil-sourced lead hazard risks. International journal of environmental research and public health, 13(4), 358.

Reilly, C. M. (2017). Potable to poisonous: An analysis of the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

 

United States Census Bureau (2016). QuickFacts: Flint city, Michigan. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/quickf acts/table/PST045215/2629000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix A Map of Flint

 

Appendix B: City of Flint