The city of Flint, Michigan has become notorious because of their water crisis; nearly going bankrupt in 2014 the city of Flint was in emergency mode. They hired new staff to at the city’s Department of Health and Human Services, in hopes that people with new perspectives would solve the city’s problems. In an attempt to save money the city of Flint decided that they should switch the city’s source of water from the Detriot River to the Flint River. They failed to add anti-corrosive chemicals to the drinking water, which caused things like lead and rust in the pipes to leach into the water. The water had become so corrosive that the General Motors factory had to stop using the water on their car parts.
Beginning in 2014, Flint’s water crisis has received attention nationwide. People began to attend more town hall meetings outraged at the fact they had to still pay for water that was poisoning them. Officials say that the levels of lead in the water have returned to an acceptable level now but the damage has been done, and the effects will continue to be felt by an entire generation of people in Flint. The toxic water has contributed to the deaths of at least twelve people, and thousands of children have been negatively affected by the lead in the contaminated water. Who will be held accountable?
Recently, Nick Lyon and five other officials from Flint’s health department have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Lyon is the head of the health department in Flint, and in addition to playing a part in the poisoning of the water, he failed to alert people to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The outbreak of Legionnaires’ has been linked to the poor water quality. He also has been charged with misconduct in office, allegedly preventing university researchers from gathering data on Flint’s water quality.
The others charged with involuntary manslaughter include Darnell Earley, who was Flint’s emergency manager, Howard Croft, who ran Flint’s public works department, Liane Shekter Smith, and Stephen Busch. Smith and Busch both were state environmental regulators. Even the state’s chief medical officer, Dr.Eden Wells, was charged with obstruction of justice after she was caught lying to an investigator. Her defense attorney says that “Dr. Wells vehemently denies the charges”.
Between 2014-2015 there was a hundred cases Legionnaires’ disease, which resulted in the deaths of twelve people. Health experts suggest that these people had gotten sick or died as a result of the poisonous water in Flint. The state advised people that they should cook, bathe, and wash their clothes with bottled water. How can multiple people be aware of this issue for so long and be so slow to react to such an urgent problem? The Michigan Civil Rights Commission put out a report in February blaming “systemic racism” going back decades for the problems that lead to the water crisis in Flint.
It is true that poor Black and Hispanic community have often been shafted by large corporations and governments, but whether or not racism is the factor that is to blame for the water crisis is unclear. It may be more a combination of incompetence and the fear of being labeled a whistleblower that had so many government officials stay on the sidelines about this issue for so long.
The citizens of Flint trusted these people! Michigan’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette, said that “the health crisis in Flint has created a trust crisis for Michigan government, exposing a serious lack of confidence in leaders who accept responsibility and solve problems”. At the moment there is no link between the water crisis and the state’s governor, Rick Synder, who may not be charged with anything. He did publicly apologize for the failures of his administration.