Flint, Michigan: Another Update From the Road

If you've been following the news, you may have seen that 5 city officials in Flint, Michigan were recently charged with manslaughter. By coincidence, this coincides with James' recent stop in Flint to both rest and volunteer with the city. 

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Below, James breaks down Flint's water crisis, an on-going issue that involves the neglect of minority communities by government officials, and stems back further into the city's history than many people realize. 

"I wanted to travel to Flint to learn more about the water crisis they were having and to learn from the public instead of just the news. Why is this important? Heightened lead issues in water are happening all over the country. On army bases, other cities with similar demographics as Flint, and in public schools. 
How did Flint get to 5 people being charged with involuntary manslaughter? Because of their neglecting to treat the water all under the governor's administration. "Lyon, 48, the director of the Health and Human Services Department, is accused of failing to alert the majority-black population about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area, which has been linked by some experts to poor water quality in 2014-15."
 

This is the history of Flint's water issue. 

First, let's look at this as basic as possible, without saying names or bringing race into this. Let's start in the 70s when GM had a few plants closed down and leave in the Flint area. Flint at one point, had the highest middle class and a population approaching half a million. Once GM left, so did the people, so did the budget, and so did the ability to maintain infrastructure. Now the population is approaching 70,000. With a huge decline in population, the budget became extremely small causing the state to have to save money where ever they can. On April 25, 2014, unable to pay for their usual water from Karegnomdi Water Authority decides to now get water from the Flint River.

The people of Flint were concerned with the water quality including the mayor's office but in a press release, he claimed it was fine. Outbreaks of bacteria were shown in the water and even GM made a statement said it will no longer use Flint River water due to it causing corrosion in its pipes. The state government offices continue to send Flint River water to homes but switch its offices to bottled water. On February 25, the first signs of lead show up in homes with levels reaching 13,000 ppb which is in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Flint continues to neglect this and does not start any corrosive control measures on pipes.

To put this in perspective, 5ppb of lead in water can be lethal to a child. About 6 months later, Flint releases its first advisory of lead issues after they choose to ignore EPA memos.

They were forced to release something after VTech found high levels of lead in a majority of the children living in Flint. A state of emergency was declared by Flint state offices and Former President Obama in Oct. Flint switched back to its old water source and now have to find a way to stop this. Chemicals in the flint river destroyed the pipes now causing Flint to have to replace 8,000 lines of water infrastructure. It's now June 17, 2017, and not a single pipe has been replaced, people can't drink water without a filter, 8 people have been trialed, 2 corporations, have been put under trial, and 5 people have been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. 


When talking to the public, they 100% see this as a race issue. Would this happen in a predominantly middle class and white area? Flint is over 50% African American. GM wouldn't clean their machines with this water. Many EPA memos were ignored by the governor's office in Flint. If it wasn't for the research being done by VTech, the damage of lead could have still been ignored.

 

Even though 8,000 lines of pipes will be replaced, who knows when it will start, the pipes in people's homes will not be replaced forcing them to continue to use filters and drink bottled water. Residents are annoyed with the amount of bottled water being sent. "It's like putting a band-aid on an infection. It may stop the bleeding, but you're still going to die," said a resident of Flint. A 5 team task force of doctors, state officials, and health experts made 44 different recommendations to Governor Snyder's office before the EPA released an emergency order but every single one was ignored to save money.

 

Would more aggressive government action happen if this was a rich and white neighborhood? Did aggressive government action happen in the poor and mostly black neighborhoods during hurricane Katrina in New Orleans? No. Did quick action happen when D.C. had lead issues in their water in poor and predominantly minority areas? No. Did quick action take place in poor areas in West Virginia when Chemical spills took place and water was poisoned? No. 


Regardless of what you think, 5 people are found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in a predominantly African American community. 


Will action happen in areas of Newark, NJ with their most recent lead issues rising? Let's hope so. Time to speak up."

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