Flint, Michigan, just 60 miles northwest of Detroit, is home to over 100,000 people. It’s nick named ‘Buick City’ for its massive operations in automobile manufacturing, is the birthplace of left-wing documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, and was made infamous by its water crisis of 2015.
For those unfamiliar, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the city of Flint on behalf of the tens of thousands of Flint residents for its violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, after being contacted by residents who noticed abnormalities with their drinking water, found dangerous levels of lead in the city’s municipal waters. Plaintiffs blamed authorities for negligence, and that this misconduct has led to “physical and psychological injuries, learning and other permanent disabilities, weight loss, stunted growth, anemia, headaches, abdominal and other pain, mental anguish, emotional distress, the cost of medical, education, and rehabilitation expenses, and other expenses of training assistance, loss of income and earning capacity, property damage, destruction of water service lines, and devaluation of property damages.” Further testing revealed that some drinking waters in Flint contained nearly 7 times the amount of lead allowed by the EPA.
How did this happen?
In August of 2014, city officials announced that coliform bacterium was detected in the Flint public water supply, prompting residents to boil their water before drinking. After flushing the system with chlorine and other disinfectants, that problem was supposedly fixed, and the “boil water” advisory was lifted on August 20, 2014. In September, the water again tested positive for coliform bacteria, which led officials to further flush the pipes with more chlorine.
While treating drinking water with chlorine is common and may not seem alarming, when it interacts with other organic matter in the water, produces trihalomethanes, or TTHM. And the buildup and consumption of these particles have been shown to be carcinogenic, meaning it can lead to cancer in humans. Not only that, but higher levels of chlorine in water increase corrosive ability, which, when reacted with metal pipes, contaminate the water with dangerous toxins such as lead. Not only have Michigan and the city of Flint been sued, but a 722 million dollar lawsuit was filed against the EPA on behalf of more than 1,700 residents impacted by the water crisis.
Could This Happen Again?
It’s important to know where our food and water comes from – where anything we put into our bodies comes from. And while what happened in Flint may seem distant or isolated, it’s important to note that by the time residents began to notice there was something in the water, damage was already being done, damage that was irreversible.
While, for some, only drinking bottled water may not be feasible or may be too expensive, for many, it’s the way they ensure they know exactly what they’re drinking. For others, investing in a water filter such as a Brita or PUR is the right choice. Home testing kits are also available and recommended for anyone who drinks water directly from the tap, such as this one which is available on Amazon.