The city of Flint, MI has declared a state of emergency after extremely high levels of lead were found in the blood of children. The tap water in the city is believed to contain dangerously high lead levels. The Mayor of Flint Karen M. Weaver has asked for federal assistance in dealing with the tainted water that has been delivered to Flint citizens. The water had originally been declared safe by government officials.
Earlier this year in September, it was reported that lead contamination was on the rise in the city. Since April of 2014, when the city first transitioned its water supply from the Detroit system to the Flint River, the number of infants and children who have been found to have blood with high levels of lead has doubled, going from 2% to 4%.
According to the World Health Organization, children with high levels of lead in their blood typically have reduced IQs, behavioral issues, shortened attention spans and increased antisocial behavior. Exposure to lead can also result in anemia, hypertension, renal impairment and damage to the reproductive organs. These health effects are believed to be irreversible.
It is believed that the high levels of lead in the Flint River are caused by old pipes and plumbing systems. The water in the Flint River is said to be very corrosive, causing more lead to rub-off into the system. The river has also gained the distinction of being one of the dirtiest rivers in Michigan. Throughout the years, it has housed raw sewage, tires and broken refrigerators. But this was not enough to stop city officials from declaring the water safe to consume in April of 2014.
In fact, the Flint River water is so filthy that General Motors announced in October of 2014 that would no longer use the water at its engine plant. GM was fearful that the water would cause corrosion. This water that wasn’t good enough for a car engine was supposed to be nourishing an entire city.
After the switch in 2014, Flint residents began complaining about a foul odor coming from the water, as well as its cloudy appearance. Despite this, state and local officials insisted that the water was still safe. They maintained their promise of safe water even in January of 2015, when it was reported that the water contained chemicals that are linked to cancer and other diseases.
Needless to say, those who could afford it quickly started purchasing bottled water. Some people even tediously boiled pots of water to use for baths. But for the unlucky poor residents, they were forced to keep consuming the Flint River water.
By October of 2015, the city had heard enough complaints, and it switched Flint’s water supply back to the Detroit System. The Detroit System will be used until the Karegnondi Water Authority Pipeline of Lake Huron is ready for use. The pipeline is expected to be ready by the end of 2016.
But while the city is once again receiving somewhat sanitary water, concerns over the damage that has already been done remain ever present. Last month, the residents filed a class-action lawsuit against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, the city of Flint, the state of Michigan and at least 13 other public officials. The lawsuit claims that these officials deprived residents of their 14th amendment rights by knowingly providing them with unclean water. The 14th amendment guarantees equal rights for all citizens.
The lawsuit reads, “For more than 18 months, state and local government officials ignored irrefutable evidence that the water pumped from the Flint River exposed residents to extreme toxicity. The deliberately false denials about the safety of the Flint River water was as deadly as it was arrogant.”
Many of the plaintiffs claim that they have experienced skin lesions, hair loss, hypertension, vision loss and severe depression. A large number of families have stepped forward saying that their health issues have persisted even after they stopped using the water.
Meanwhile, Flint Mayor Weaver believes that the ramifications from this manmade disaster will be tremendous and that it will affect the city for generations. She believes that there will be an increased number of learning disabilities, requiring that more special education services be put into place. Residents of the city are also more likely to produce unhealthy offspring because of the damage done to their reproductive organs. It’s very fair to wonder if the city can ever manage to recover from this catastrophe.