By Staff Writer Eric Sousa.
In 2015, the United States experienced a scandal that shook the nation; Flint, Michigan became known for its lead poisoning instead of its drastically high crime rate and economy.
However, the question that has recently arisen is singing a different tune: is that scandal still as severe?
The city had switched their water source from Lake Huron to Flint River. The consequences for this action were dire.
The untreated Huron water damaged lead pipes, poisoning thousands of children with lead poisoning. There were criminal charges towards the cause of the issue, and also towards the cover-up of the damage.
It would actually be impressive how many dominoes that one move impacted… if, you know, those dominoes weren’t the lives of a community being ruined en masse.
The lead water, which contained 387 parts per billion (or ppb) in a resident’s tap water, was way over the federal limit 15 ppb of lead in 2015.
Since that time, the nation began an outcry for change. Within the next couple of years, heavy fines were dropped, arrests were made, and emergency efforts to supply clean water surfaced to alleviate the tension.
The effort to supply enough clean water, which was done via bottled water, was intended to be a short-term solution until the city’s water fell under the federally declared means.
At the beginning of 2018, the ppb levels were at a 6, and more recent tests reveal them to be at a 4 ppb. This puts it well within the useable legal limits.
However, locals report a lack of trust towards the government telling them, again, that their water is safe to drink.
The citizens of Flint, Michigan are not fully placated by recent reports, and make claims to continue using the bottled water. It raises the question, what level of safety is safe enough for a Flint resident now?
However, it also raises a more pressing moral question: can we blame them?
It’s easy, objectively, to separate yourself from a citizen you’ll never meet in Michigan. I mean, I think we’ve all drank tap water that tastes like it could varnish around here. If the tainted water becomes fixed, it would make sense to switch back to municipal facilities. At what point should our sympathy give way to irritation?
As a light-hearted aside, here are some fun facts about lead poisoning. It can cause, but is not limited to: abdominal pains, neurological dysfunction, joint pain, internal bleeding, and skyrocketing blood pressure.
In addition, there is a strong cause-effect relationship between IQ decreases and lead poisoning.
This fact is especially prominent in children, who can have a slew of extra symptoms due to lead-influenced development.
More pressing, though, is Flint, Michigan’s financial situation.
Property value plummeted due to this crisis, destroying people’s homes and pipes as lead-water the color of silt poured through their faucets, shower-heads, and toilets.
This left an abundance of homes that had no value, drastically complicating the process of moving out of the city where the water slowly kills you and your loved ones.
So, should we, as distant bystanders, criticize Flint residents for their skepticism? Should we set the timeline for when Flint residents should consider rebuilding their trust towards their government?
Personally, I have a hard time answering yes to that.
We all grew up with colloquial expressions, such as, “go eat lead paint chips” (Thanks, gram-gram) to express the inherent danger of lead.
The government deluged their houses with lead-contaminated water. Worse, their local government blatantly lied about proper water testing in 2015.
I can’t blame them for remaining skeptical.
It’s going to take more than a few years of drinking Dasani to properly heal the breach of trust between citizen and government.
However, it remains to be determined what exactly will restore the trust between this city and Michigan and the governmental processes that are responsible for it.
Only time will tell.