By: Jackson Vosburg
Summary. The Flint Water Crisis ravaged the city of Flint and the surrounding neighborhoods in 2014. They used water from the flint river, which is a naturally soft and acidic water source. This in turn caused the pipes in homes, businesses, and gathering places to be tainted with lead, which was corroded into the water supply from the acidic water. This caused a catastrophe that made its rounds to national and international news and permanently scarred many residents and their families, causing mass distrust of government. In 2017, a federal judge mandated a plan to replace all pipes in the city of Flint, which is still ongoing as of today. Despite many homes being deemed safe for water consumption again, many people are still very distrustful. The program did not allow for the replacement of pipes inside of people's homes, meaning the water supply could still potentially be contaminated for some. This is not the only issue however. Public mistrust of the government in Flint is still near an all time high because of the lingering effects of the water crisis. Nearly all residents are still drinking bottled water and showering at a friend or family member's house outside of the city. This then begs the questions: What is this program for? How will the government regain trust? The obvious answer to the first question is that the program is to return the municipal water supply of Flint back to where it was pre-crisis in 2014. However, delving deeper into the question makes one wonder, what is it really for? If the people still don't trust the municipal water supply and many residents still have corroded lead pipes in their homes, is the replacement program really accomplishing anything positive? Many residents cannot afford to replace all of the lead pipes in their homes, and tenants who rent have no choice whatsoever in the replacement of lead pipes in their homes. This is a failure on the government for not providing pipe replacement for homes as well, which is ironic because the cause of the crisis in the first place was a government oversight in municipal water supply. Without fixing the pipes in homes, this project is as good as useless. The second question, how does the government regain trust, is even more difficult to answer. Flint's population is over 50% black, and minority populations have already been historically oppressed by the government. This makes trust of the government much harder to obtain, and much easier to lose. The 2014 crisis has significantly damaged this relationship, for some beyond repair. The government cannot simply do an advertising campaign like they can for other pressing issues, because trusting the government's propaganda to trust the water supply would obviously not work very well. The only way the government of Flint can repair their image is through their actions, not their words and false promises. As the year 2021 comes to a close, it marks nearly 7 years since the start of the Flint Water Crisis, and it does not show any signs of being completely gone for the foreseeable future. The crisis which many Michiganders and Americans stopped hearing or caring about years ago is still ongoing and causing issues for the people of Flint, Michigan.
We we should care? The Crisis is an example crumbling infrastructure of America and the consequences that can occur when not left in check. It is also an example of government corruption at the State and City level.
The article from the Washington Post was compelling because it interviewed multiple people from Flint to hear their story in 2021, and also asked them if they are back to using tap water yet. All people interviewed in the article said no, which is not too surprising considering the ongoing issues still occurring. People interviewed revealed the bottled water programs are still ongoing throughout Flint and are mostly among the elderly who have less money and are less mobile. Simple actions such as showering and cooking are either done at the houses of relatives or done with bottled water from the store. As a resident Aaron Neely put it, "Their pipes … were destroyed by a city problem, but now the responsibility to fix it is on the residents, which is totally unfair.” This brings light to the fact that although the water crisis is being masked by the pipe replacement effort from the government, it is hiding the fact that residents must pay to have their own pipes replaced. Without replacing the pipes inside homes, the effort to fix Flint's infrastructure is pointless.
Science in Action.
Dr. Marc Edwards is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineer at Virginia Technical University.
Marc Edwards has investigated water supplies in Washington DC, UNC campus, Flint, and most recently wells in Fishers Landing, New York. He has dedicated most of his life research into investigating and ensuring the safety of municipal water supplies in the United States. His research has lead to the replacement of thousands of lead pipes, and also changed the way water tests are done on a Federal level. Marc Edwards was instrumental in the Flint Water Crisis issues being exposed and brought to light. Before his research was conducted, City and State employees were falsifying scientific data in their reports. When Edwards heard cries for help and stories from Flint Residents he decided to test the water supply. His research was eventually sent to city and state officials, and a state of emergency was later declared due to his research. He saved countless lives through his research and his evidence also helped jail corrupt politicians and workers who allowed for the crisis to occur in the first place.