The State of Flint Water Crisis 1.2

By Ian Teñido

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The Flint water crisis late last year running to this year is one of the modern crises that history will write boldly for all to see lest they attempt to make another blunder. Countries around the globe have delved in the cause of water poisoning in Flint as they benchmark their water servicing. Every drop of intoxicated water spewed from Flint can be traced back to a major cause or rather a terrible decision that led to water poisoning. The city decided to switch its main water supply from the treated Lake Huron to the corrosive broth in the Flint River. Having been left untreated, the Flint River water unleashed the disaster through its corrosive lead pipes.

So far, the disaster has affected many residents. Lives have been lost and others affected health-wise needing hospitalization time after time. The economic and social burden introduced for the residents of Flint was enormous and while others could hope and think that the problem will fade away as fast as possible, it is still affecting people today. To clearly put this into a perspective, at least 15% of the city’s homes had water with high lead levels exceeding the safe limits established by the clean water regulations. The lead levels in some houses were as high as 900 times above the safe limit. Most observers blame poor political decision making for the crisis but it should be noted that such commentary could not get airtime if the lead pipes did not exist as part of the conduits.

The immediate solution was to use the anti-corrosive chemicals but this could only help reduce the levels of lead in the water to levels that are lower and not below the set safe limit. The solution, and which would be long term, was to replace all the lead pipes in order to completely eliminate the safety concerns on water. Governor Rick Snyder had estimated that by September of 2016, the replacement of all lead plumbing would have been done at a cost of $60 million. The people of Flint registered their frustrations with such plans because they were wondering if they will be taking bottled water baths for that long!

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Months on in her state of the city address, Mayor Karen Weaver confirmed that Flint had overseen only 0.3% representing 33 replacements of more than 11,300 lead and galvanized steel for residential water pipelines. The slow progress means that Flint residents have more and more time to use bottled water. The delay is alluded to the slow marshalling of resources by the appointed authorities to get the contractors on the sites rip out the old pipelines. While there was enthusiasm at the beginning of the project that Flint will be restored back to clean water supply, this has been shrouded in mystery because more and more residents are nowadays flocking onto the Flint streets protesting either against a reported illness or even deaths.

While the reintroduction of the anti-corrosive agents in the last fall saw a substantial decrease in the levels of lead reported from households, from an environmental perspective, this is only but treating a bad symptom. A complete solution is needed if lead poisoning in Flint water is to be reported at safer limit and apparently, the cure is replacing the lead pipes and the longer it takes the longer the high levels of lead will be reported.

The main issue at the moment is that the replacement project seems to be taking longer than anticipated by its officials. Adding to this complexity, the city lacks the records about the type of metal for water pipelines running into over 9,000 houses. This adds on the already stingy budget of the project because all of these homes are required to be inspected at a cost further delaying the project dates. As an environmentalist, I would love this project to be completed within the shortest time possible because the people in Flint continue to be poisoned with lead, not mentioning the huge amounts of lead being absorbed in the soils all across Flint. Unfortunately, this might just be another bigger environmental issue being undermined…

Article Download Link: The State of Flint Water Crisis_Ian Tenido_PDF

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References

Custer, N. (2016). “Rebuild Flint” marchers pass by Karegnondi Pipeline, call for infrastructure, justice. East Village Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.eastvillagemagazine.org/2016/02/23/rebuild-flint-marchers-pass-by-karegnondi-pipeline-call-for-infrastructure-justice/ on December 10, 2016.

FWATF (2016). Flint Water Advisory Task Force-Final Report. Retrieved from https://www.michigan.gov/documents/snyder/FWATF_FINAL_REPORT_21March2016_517805_7.pdf on December 10, 2016.

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