BY BRIAN COSTA
Water is a necessity that we use, perhaps overuse, for every day activities in the United States. According to the EPA, on average, an American household consisting of four members uses a staggering 400 gallons daily. A major key for the reason that so much water is utilized is that water is easily accessible and safe to use due to safety standards in tandem with the developed public water systems found in the country. As Americans, we usually take water for granted.
However, as many have learned in recent events in Flint, Michigan, U.S. safety regulations and infrastructure do not always work.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, in April 2014, Flint switched their tap water provider away from Detroit’s more expensive water source to the Flint River, which was to be used temporarily until a new piping system was created connecting to Lake Huron. Nothing wrong with that, only the change in water source would ultimately cause the corrosion of lead in these old pipes and would result in the contamination of household tap water.
According to an article from the Washington Post, the state had failed to add mandatory chemicals to the new water source that would have prevented lead from corroding in the piping system. The water treatment is not a particularly expensive task either, especially considering the heavy costs amassed for the error. Most importantly, though, are the horrible health effects that the mistake has had on the people of the Flint community.
To make matters worse, while the problem has been identified, the solution has been elusive and slow. In fact, the local, state, and federal officials are still trying to alleviate the damages to an already distraught city. It took until the end of 2015 for leaders to tell the locals to stop drinking the tap water.
“Nothing wrong with that, only the change in water source would ultimately cause the corrosion of lead in these old pipes and would result in the contamination of household tap water.”
According to an article from the USA Today, Michigan governor Rick Snyder only officially declared Flint to be in a state of emergency on January 5, 2016 and called on the National Guard to help provide bottled water and filters to the distressed families. The Flint water system was also reconnected to the Detroit city water, but residents were still advised not to drink the water as the river had already sparked the pipe corrosion.
President Obama followed with his own declaration of a federal state of emergency on February 16 by activating the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which helped cover costs for the struggling city. However, both the state legislature and the EPA fell under criticisms for failing to act quickly after dangerous levels of lead was detected in the water.
Flint’s mayor Karen Weaver would also be inevitably entwined in the debacle. In an NBC News article from February 17, Weaver and Snyder are currently locked in a disagreement over the best way to proceed with fixing the pipeline. Snyder argues that the pipes consisting of the lead should be replaced in a thought-out process. However, Weaver argues that the replacement of pipes should be done immediately, so that Flint residents could have access to safe tap water as quickly as possible.
At this point, the lead contaminated water has already affected many people as the realization that a high concentration of lead was infiltrating the water flow to houses occurred very late. More work must be done in Flint so that the city can have access to clean water without any qualms in the future. A lot of very poor mistakes have been made, but now the priority for policymakers and leaders of the Flint community is to put an end to the nightmare.