Sample Environmental Paper on Flint Water Crisis

Flint Water Crisis

Water is an essential resource. Some organisms have 90 percent of their body weight occupied by water. In human beings, the ratio is 60 percent. Therefore, when water is polluted, life quality can be significantly affected. The U.S experienced one of the worst crisis in its history; the Flint Water Crisis. The crisis occurred as a result of changing the residential water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The water was not treated properly, and thus the residents were vulnerable to the rising levels of lead in the residential tap system. Most of the children in the area were diagnosed with a substantial amount of lead traces in their blood. This paper seeks to give a better understanding of the incident, how it was resolved,  and what could have been done differently.

Due to the need for reduction of the cost of treating water in 2013, the city of Flint chose to partner with Karegnondi Water Authority so that they could transmit water from Lake Huron. However, the city disagreed with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD), hence they decided to use water from the Flint River and had it treated by the Flint Water Service Center instead of being supplied with treated water from DWSD (Flinn, 2017). In 2014, it was discovered that the water flowing in the taps was brown and had a bad smell. Both the local and the federal governments did not consider taking immediate action after the realization. Instead, the city of Flint suggested for the locals to boil the water before using it (Flinn, 2017). The move was dangerous since boiling the water would increase the lead concentration as a result of vaporing the water instead of the lead particles. The residents, however, followed the advice from the authorities oblivious of the danger that was slowly building up.

 

The issue started escalating at the beginning of 2015 after authorities in the city informed locals that there were high levels of trihalomethane compounds in the water being consumed. The discovery led to concerns and fears across the city regarding water safety and the imminent hazard. From a scientific point of view, lead metal is very poisonous to the body and can lead to death if undiscovered. According to studies, high levels of lead in the body can lower one’s intelligence, development, behavior, and other related neurological functions, especially in children. Additionally, when someone is exposed to lead for an extended period, it can cause kidney damage and hypertension. The lead poisoning incident led to high mental cases among children in the city. As a result, there was an increased fear of consuming water in the town as sickness became the way of life for most people in the city. Excessive stress sparked among the locals and schools were significantly affected as children had a low ability to attend to studies. The residents considered purchasing bottled water or water filters, which drastically increased the expenses in the city due to the high demand for bottled water.

The incident led to widespread speculations that the African Americans and Hispanics were the ones targeted because they were the significant proportion in the city. Most people perceived this as a racist act (Michigan Civil Rights Commission & Michigan, 2017). Irrespective of the claims, most people in the social setting were of lower classes and they were significantly affected by the event. Much of the blame was shifted to Governor Snyder who was known for his support for tax cuts and limited spending. He was blamed for his intentions to cut the costs of water by using Flint River instead of drawing water from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department whose water was safe for human consumption at the time of the crisis.

 

There were various efforts made from the different branches of the government to mitigate the crisis. Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency. The governor ordered the Michigan Emergency Operations Centre to collaborate with the Homeland Security Division and collect information from the residents concerning the crisis. Through the Emergency Department, there was a recommendation to test all children below six years to ascertain the impact of lead poisoning. The state established a central station where the residents could pick up bottled water, water filters, and home testing gadgets. Additionally, Flint residents were hired to give out water distribution sites in the city. Governor Rick Snyder initiated the formation of commission to deal with lead exposure cases in children.

In 2016, the federal government send its representatives in the city to monitor the crisis and collaborated with various emergency departments to arrive at a solution to the issue. The federal government also extended nutrition programs to the children who had been affected by the water crisis. An additional $500,000 was provided to carter for Medicaid expansion especially for children and expectant mothers (Pauli, 2019). The Department of Labour offered an additional $15 million to provide temporary employment to assist in the recovery of the crisis and about 400 jobs were created at the distribution points. Nevertheless, numerous issues on the crisis are yet to be resolved. The replacement of infrastructure has not yet been fully implemented, and no one has been charged or prosecuted regarding the matter. The city is still battling to recover to its initial state while the residents have lost trust in the piped water with the fear of lead poisoning.

The various stakeholders in the Flint water crisis tried to implement various methods to solve the tragedy. However, some things could have been done differently to improve the efficiency of the resolutions to the issue. Instead of replacing the pipes, a more sound approach would be to install new systems, which could run parallel to the old pipes. The high costs incurred in resolving the crisis would be reduced if a long lasting solution was implemented. Building new infrastructure would be an alternative since the existing piping systems would still have traces of the lead metal if they are reused after the water has been treated.

The local and state officials did not involve the residents at all levels during the decision-making process in the crisis. It would have been better if the local community and public health officials were involved in the crucial stages of making decisions. It would be essential for the local community to work in conjunction with the government to ensure the will of the people who were affected by the tragedy is fulfilled. There was also the need for transparency of information regarding regulations to curb injustice and corruption.

Although the relevant authorities did their best to solve the issue, there was delayed justice in the water crisis. The officials in charge of water treatment failed to protect the health of the public, and upon the realization that the water was unsafe for human consumption, there was a delay in declaring an emergency (Masten, Davies & Mcelmurry, 2016). The officials failed to fulfill their mandate in the various dockets, yet they are still unpunished. It would be fair to ensure that they face trial in a court of law for their negligence while performing their duties. It is the only way the residents can fill that their welfare matters to the government. The action would also serve as a lesson to other authorities and prevent a future crisis.

The local, state, and federal authorities would also have increased lead exposure awareness. It was evident that there were no educational activities organized in the city to improve awareness of lead poisoning after it had become a tragedy. The same lead that was present in the water being consumed by the residents could also exist in many other hidden forms in homes. It could be irrelevant to focus on the lead poisoning in the Flint water if the locals could still be exposed to health risks associated with lead poisoning existing in different forms. For instance, homes built before 1978 are known to have lead on painted surfaces and can only be discovered by testing.

Conclusion

             The suffering in the Flint was an environmental injustice. The crisis could have been prevented if there were better measures taken during decision making. Therefore, the incidents call for regulations that can help prevent the reoccurrence of such an incident. The event should raise public awareness on the daily necessities that can pose a threat to an individual’s health. Those who are entrusted with the power to protect public health should do everything to prevent loss of lives.

 

References

Flinn, G. (2017). The hidden history of Flint.

Masten, S. J., Davies, S. H., & Mcelmurry, S. P. (2016). Flint Water Crisis: What Happened and              Why? Journal – American Water Works Association, 108(12), 22–34.          doi.org/10.5942/jawwa.2016.108.0195

Michigan Civil Rights Commission, & Michigan. (2017). The Flint water crisis: Systemic   racism             through the lens of Flint: Report of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission,                     February 17, 2017.

Pauli, B. J. (2019). Flint fights back: Environmental justice and democracy in the Flint water         crisis.