Water is so readily available and it prevents us from realizing that it is a privilege. In fact it is a luxury for many.
If water is something we cannot survive without then the government is responsible for making sure it is at our disposal, right?
After all, the constitution states that the government is responsible for providing us with general welfare.
So if this is the case, then how on earth is it possible that an entire city of people could be denied access to clean water while the mayor of the city overtly ignores their cries for help?
Flint, Michigan is a predominantly African American city with over 40 percent of its residents living in poverty. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is the second most impoverished city for its size.
In late April 2014, the city decided to switch its municipal water source from the Detroit water system to the Flint river system pipes as a cost-effective measure.
Almost immediately, citizens began to express their concerns to local leaders about the foul-smelling water. Not only was their water discolored, but they were experiencing rashes and hair loss from drinking and bathing in it.
After multiple independent investigations, the city was basically forced to confront the presence of E.coli and coliform bacteria in the water supply. However, the mayor simply instructed residents to boil their water or purchase bottled water, suggesting that it was not that serious – clearly disregarding the economic conditions and lives of his residents.
All the while, citizens and children of Flint were found to have been exposed to high levels of lead and the city and mayor continued to make excuses, dismissing the concerns of the residents and asserting that the water complied with federal standards.
Strangely enough, the same pipes Flint was using was soon found to be corroding General Motor’s car parts – which after discovery, GM immediately stopped using. Surprisingly, such revelations did not serve as motivation for the city to immediately stop use of Flint pipes as well.
If it can corrode car parts, imagine what it can do to the human body?
During these early signs of lead detection, Flint was given the opportunity to switch back to the Detroit water system at no cost, but declined.
The result of such negligence towards the residents of Flint will have generational impacts to come; particularly in the form of behavioral problems, learning disorders, attention deficit, lower IQ and many other neurological problems.
This will not only impact their day to day interactions, but will also interfere with their performance in school which will consequentially interfere with the course of their lives – making this an extreme tragedy.
Consider the obstacles that children living in poverty endure. Now add the likelihood of lead poisoning and its guaranteed affect to the mixture.
Had news of the poisoning not had become a national exposure, would the city continue to knowingly allow their citizens to drink contaminated water in an effort to save money for their already economically struggling city?
Furthermore, one can only question if Flint had been a rich Caucasian suburban city that had been drinking and bathing in contaminated water instead of an impoverished African American city, would effective measures have been taken sooner?
In addition to racial composition being a huge determinant, one must consider the big impact politics play:
Flint, Michigan has been ranked by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research as the 10th most liberal city in the United States.
Now consider the fact that they are led by a Republican governor. They are essentially of no use to a Republican-led state government, and because of this, those in power have little incentive to respond urgently to complaints.
Political disincentive, racism and classism means that the city of Flint, Michigan essentially had no chance of being saved to begin with.
Ultimately the events in Flint are egregious, criminal and exemplify appalling incompetence. It is hard enough being a poor resident in Flint, and even harder when the very people you rely on to protect your basic constitutional rights are nowhere to be found when your life is at stake.
The exact events that led up to the poisoning of Flint will likely take several months to piece together. However, what is clear is that the Flint water crisis is a perfect depiction of severe government failure.
As a result, the government officials involved in knowingly poisoning Flint for 17 months must be punished and held accountable for their indifference as well as the irreversible affect the water contamination will have on the residents of Flint, Michigan.
As members of society, we must acknowledge when our government fails to fulfill their duties and when that happens, we must act accordingly.