In April 2014, the city of Flint Michigan’s water source was irresponsibly switched from The Detroit River to Lake Huron due to cuts in budgeting. However, the city would not be able to access this pipeline for about three years, making this switch a concerning move. Nonetheless, the people of Flint would need an immediate water source and that was the Flint River (Shen 1). Unfortunately, poor precautionary measures were taken when resupplying the communities’ everyday water source. The water was not tested, nor treated in the fashion that all water sources are supposed to be and the citizens of the Flint community paid the price for it.
Nakiya Wakes is one of the affected citizens of the Flint Water Crisis who shared her story through a personal testimony. Wakes moved to Flint in 2013, just a year before the switch of water supply. In April 2015, she experienced a miscarriage of her unborn twins at two separate times, one early on and the other at four months. After a necessary blood transfusion, Wakes arrived home to a letter sent by the City of Flint stating that pregnant women and people over fifty-five year old should not drink the tap water from their Flint homes. Although the notice was too late for her own health, she immediately arranged for her children to be tested for lead exposure. Their results came back as 5.0, which is considered high (Wakes 143). In children, any level of lead can be detrimental for their mental growth and the effects can be irreversible (Parker; Martin). For Wakes’ children, her young girl experienced hair loss, her boy had behavioral problems in school, and all three of them had skin rashes. The effects of lead to developing children is fearful for it includes, “Lower intelligence, difficulty in paying attention and with fine motor skills, and lower academic achievement have all been connected to elevated lead levels”(Parker). Nakiya Wakes has been actively fighting for Flint’s community since before she gave this testimony on March 23, 2017 at the Trinity Wall Street conference, Water Justice. Her efforts have been met with national recognition by being on CNN as well as other talk shows, and has additionally met with President Obama and the U.S. Surgeon General. Despite this overwhelming publicity, Wakes has not been given chance to speak with the then governor of Flint, Rick Snyder (Wakes 144). This fact grows speculation of whether or not the fault of the crisis could fall in his hands or that of his peers involved.
According to the Cornell Policy Review, “the EPA oversees the regulations of water and sets the standards for the maximum allowable levels of contaminants, the state level administrators are the first enforcers.” Essentially, the state is responsible for clean water supply in the form of water bottle deliveries or stricter regulations once an issue is detected. The online journal includes a description of what is supposed to happen in a situation where clean water becomes jeopardized. It mentions that the state must inform the public as well as the media of the contaminated water, and if they can not meet the proper water standards, then the EPA must get involved and deal with the responsible parties. The next step, should there be no progress, would be for the U.S President to declare a state of emergency where then the “available armed forces such as the National Guard would distribute clean water and support the infrastructure efforts necessary for creating a clean water supply (Smithhisler 1).”
Flint’s situation was almost dealt with according to these standards, except for the fact that the city was using the contaminated water for eighteen months before the city had to admit they did not pass the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements (Shen 1). This information was shared only after the EPA stepped in to inform Michigan officials of the contamination the lead pipes had caused to the water. Even though the community was quick to notice a change in color and smell of the water, far prior to the reveal months later, they were told by state officials not to worry. Due to this misinformation, the people of Flint can not trust that the water is safe enough to use, especially when they have been severely lied to by their government. Eventually, the free water bottle delivery – a state funded project – was cut by Rick Snyder when the lead levels started to decrease. Again, no level of lead is safe for children to ingest, making this decision seem ill-timed and insensitive. The more information revealed about the cause of the crisis generates more questions than answers.
Though there are issues with the intent of the Flint’s government handling of the crisis, the main concern has always been a sustainable water source for the sake of public health. JUST Water, best described by its slogan, “is a system that’s out to change everything.” The water company’s founders Jaden Smith and Drew Fitzgerald collaborated with the First Trinity Baptist Church, a local church whose efforts provide constant clean water to Flint. The company began with its one hundred percent recyclable bottled spring water in 2012, and has remained highly regarded for its environmentally conscious brand. On March 26, 2019 a video was published by 501CTHREE, another organization by Smith and Fitzgerald, that showcases the current Flint situation by Flint residents and introduces the Water Box. Originally debuted in Flint on March 7 of 2019, the Water Box is a machine that can filter ten gallons of water in sixty seconds. When connected to a reservoir or holding tank, the water is filtered through three filters: a carbon filter and two micro filters. Then, the water travels under a UV lamp, removing bacteria or any biological elements that may contaminate the water (501CTHREE). After, it can be distributed out of the machine itself from the sink at the front of, or through the tap on the side of the box. The presence of the Water Box gives some power back to the people via their own filtration system, which lessens the need for bottled water donations.
While First Trinity Baptist has the first Water Box in Flint, it is only a matter of time and will-power for the machine to multiply and station more consistently throughout the city. What is difficult about the Flint Water Crisis is how inconvenient these people’s everyday lives have become because of a lack of a vital resource. What could make this bad situation a little better, would be having easier, quicker access to the Water Box. The box requires monetary funds nonetheless, and though that price is unclear, it is certain that donations are necessary for the creation of more Water Boxes. The media’s coverage about the crisis has dwindled down as the years tally, but perhaps this new innovation is one news sources nationwide can advocate for. Along with help from fellow Americans, these boxes can be funded for by other churches that believe in giving a helping hand. Water Boxes should also be placed into schools to avoid any further lead damaging to children.
In March of 2017, a ninety-seven million dollar settlement was issued to the state of Michigan, who agrees to replace the water lines and street piping systems. This should be completed by the year 2020, but until then, the Water Box should be the immediate solution in place. According to Detroit Free Press, the repiping job should cost around fifty-five million dollars, so there should be enough room in the funding from this settlement to spare on the creation of more Water Boxes. Government employees Mike Glasgow, Stephen Busch, and Mike Prysby, who all had direct obligation to water supervision, engineering, and quality have been charged for numerous charges, and were all put on administrative leave. They, and other government officials alike, all should have a required obligation to making sure the resolution is seen through at all costs, which would include automated donations to the funding.
The Flint Water Crisis was a completely preventable mistake at the fault of careless government. The people of Flint and Genesee County have endured a catastrophe that Americans may not have ever considered for themselves. The Flint Water Crisis forces those aware to come to terms with the very real possibility that our developed country can come face to face with a situation we tend to believe is so far away from us. In hopes to prove that we still contain humility, it is crucial that everyone in the U.S. who has seen this tragedy unfold, and has the means to give back, does so. Donations for, or sponsoring of, a Water Box can be found on the JUST Water website. It is not the concluding solution to get Flint back to normal water standards, but it is a greatly impactful start. When the efforts of the future abundance of Water Boxes has served its time to Flint, they can then find new places to provide for. Those directly related to the tampering of the water should feel forever indebted, and should be close allies to Flint. If compassion was what drove us everyday, we would see a harmonious effort to aid these individuals and families.
501CTHREE “The Flint Water Box” https://youtu.be/S_J7fgRguBY
Denchak, Melissa. “Flint Water Crisis: Everything You Need to Know.” NRDC, NRDC, 16 Nov. 2018, http://www.nrdc.org/stories/flint-water-crisis-everything-you-need-know#sec-update.
KITTILSTAD, ELEANOR. “Reduced Culpability without Reduced Punishment: A Case for Why Lead Poisoning Should Be Considered a Mitigating Factor in Criminal Sentencing.” Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, vol. 108, no. 3, Summer 2018, pp. 569–595. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=133572612&site=ehost-live
Martin, Laura J. “Lead Levels – Blood: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Apr. 2019, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003360.htm.
Parker, Abby Goodnough and Diantha. “The Facts About Lead Exposure and Its Irreversible Damage.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Dec. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/30/us/lead-poisoning.html.
Shen, Julia. “Rising Scholar: Flint Water Crisis: Impacts on Human-Environmental Interactions and Reflections for Future Solutions.” International Social Science Review, vol. 93, no. 2, Sept. 2017, pp. 1–14. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=127007919&site=ehost-live.
Smithhisler, Nora, and Uncategorized. “The Safe Drinking Water Act and Flint, Michigan: How We Can Update Our Standards for Safe Drinking Water.” The Cornell Policy Review, Cornell, 3 July 2018, http://www.cornellpolicyreview.com/sdwa-flint-michigan/#post-4461-footnote-13.
WAKES, NAKIYA. “The Flint Water Crisis.” Anglican Theological Review, vol. 100, no. 1, Winter 2018, pp. 143–145. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=127770226&site=ehost-live.