Does anyone remember the Flint water crisis? Did you know that it is still happening?
As you read these words, my city is still without clean water. We are three years into a situation with no end in sight. It all started back in April, 2014 when the emergency manager, appointed by the state, decided to switch the water from Detroit to the Flint River. Well, if you have lived in Flint or know anyone that is from Flint, then you know that the Flint River is not something you’d want to drink. There are so many contaminants in the river that I could never see how it would ever be acceptable to take a bath or shower in, let alone good enough to drink.
The people of Flint knew this. And it did not take long for our fears to be proven.
We marched, rallied, and protested, but it was not until the citizens of Flint were able to collect overwhelming scientific proof that we were listened to. They switched us back to Detroit water in October, 2015. However, the damage was done.
Lead pipes develop a film inside, that seals the lead away from the water. When officials decided to make the switch from Detroit to Flint River, they failed to take into account the higher acidity of river water. To cut costs, they chose not to add anti-corrosives to the water, ignoring Federal regulations. When the switch was made, the untreated water began stripping that film away from the inside of pipes. Soon lead was leaching into the water, joining poorly treated bacteria to form a health nightmare for residents. Twelve people would end up dead from Legionnaires Disease, and countless children’s lives ruined by the incurable effects of lead.
When the water was finally switched back to Detroit water, the issue remained. It takes time for that protective film to form, and the lead continues to leach into the water. Even once the film re-forms, the lead will have contaminated water heaters and copper pipes in our homes.
And we are still being charged for this water.
Flint residents, in a state surrounded by clean water, pay the highest water rates in the nation. My average bill is around $200 a month.
My fellow Flint residents and I have been paying for water that is barely usable, even after being filtered. We use bottled water for everything, because the filters are not reliable. Some aren’t properly installed. I’ve personally had filters fail, overloaded by the contamination. Many residents, including myself, have refused to pay for the contaminated water because the infrastructure has not been fixed, and we can not trust their tests. The same tests they insisted said our water was fine. Estimates say that approximately 20,000 lead water lines need to be replaced. However, only about 800 have been replaced so far. So, why should we pay for water that is undrinkable? Well, that question was answered in the form of a shut off letter.
During the holiday season at the end of 2016, I and some of my fellow residents received a letter threatening that we would be placed on a shut off list, if we did not pay the amount due. When that threat didn’t work, 8,000 residents received a tax lien notice. Basically, informing them the city would seize their homes for non-payment of undrinkable water. This is the same water that made many of the residents sick, caused irreversible physical and neurological damage to thousands, and killed twelve.
So, what happens now, you may ask? Well, the city is now in a fight for its life. There are no more cameras, no more celebrities, no more Presidents or Presidential candidates. Oh wait… there is that one movie that is being made about Flint. Darn, I can’t count that either because it won’t be shot in Flint. There are plans for businesses but they don’t include residents. It seems that we are expendable. There are recall efforts on our mayor, and the city council seems to be divided most of the time. I’m not sure what to make of it all. I just know that we can do better. We must do better.
The city is run by Democrats who seem Trump-esque in their endeavors. We need better leaders on both sides of the aisle. However, my primary concern is for the Democratic Party. We need young leaders with new ideas. We need leaders who are not afraid to point out when something is wrong. We need to speak when voices are silenced. Silence is not a virtue and our children are not expendable. Please… reach out, teach out, think out and love out.
My city, whose hopes and dreams hung on to an unforgiving auto industry that ultimately left her, is becoming a barren wasteland. Those hopes crushed between medical bills and water bills. Those dreams hanging in the air like lead-laden rain clouds.