Seventy miles from the Great Lakes lives a small industrial town by the name of Flint, Michigan. Two years ago, the city switched the water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Because of the rivers notorious filth, the citizens took the proposal as a joke. They thought their town would never jeopardize their health and safety, but as it turns out, they were wrong. The switch was only expected to happen in order to help fix some financial problems in the district, but the problems became much bigger than anticipated. “In retrospect, I regret all of it,” the Mayor Walling said, but can regret really accommodate for the situation he has put himself in?
The history of the town doesn’t exactly help with the case either. Flint is a blue collar town that relies heavily on the auto industry. When the population decreased in the 1980’s, due to the lack of industrial jobs, the crime level of the city increased a lot. With the increase of crime came the increase of poverty as well. About 40% of the population was found in poverty, and to add on to everything, recourses were limited. The closest grocery store was out of town. All of these factors in mind, they were declared in a financial state of emergency in 2011, and their budget was cut. Because of this, the government of Flint had “no choice” but to switch the water.
After a while, people started noticing how the water looked, smelled, and tasted different, not right. The citizens thought that the water was infiltrated with sewage, but later on Virginia-Tech researchers including Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and her research team conducted sets of experiments of the water itself and the people in contact with it, and the results were shocking. Because the water from the Flint river had such high corrosive levels (19 times more than Lake Michigan), the lead from the water tubes was corroding and getting into the tap water, making it dangerous to come in contact with. It turns out, the state Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t treating the water with an anti corrosive agent. Public officials tried to convince worried citizens that everything was okay and the mayor even drank the water on public television, but the evidence stood strong. There was lead in the water, people became sick and lasting health problems would remain, and everything could have been prevented if the town’s government had been willing to pay the $100 dollars to treat the water. The worst part, to the citizens at least, was the fact that they had been lied to for an entire 18 months. The government knew why people were falling ill, and yet they had done nothing to try and explain or stop the crisis.
“If you were to put something in a population to keep them down for generation and generations to come, it would be lead,” Hanna-Attisha said.”It drops your IQ, it affects your behavior, it’s been linked to criminality, it has multigenerational impacts. There is no safe level of lead in a child.” Once the evidence was out (including this specific information) the people of Flint were outraged. They demanded a change of government, and though this didn’t exactly happen, they did get an apology from the mayor.
But who is really to blame? Most people may say that it was the government of the city, because they allowed the water to become unclean. But you could also say that it was the government of the state which put the town in a financial state of emergency and cut their budget. Because of the financial problems they bestowed upon Flint, they were forced to make tough choices and choose what was more important for the town. Or maybe you could even blame the owners and customers of the auto businesses that kept Flint afloat. When these businesses started to go out of business, people lost jobs. This lead to all of the factors which made Flint become financially devastated. It’s all one big chain, there is no single contributor to the massive problem bestowed upon Flint. And as the link becomes longer, the burden becomes heavier. So before you come quick to judge who caused the incident, take a minute to contemplate the story. Learn about what happened and why before you say who.