Update: Flint, Michigan
May 2, 2017
Back in 2014, Flint, Michigan became the headline of multiple news sources. The water crisis occurred when the city switched their water source to the Flint River that year. However, the water source from Flint River was only suppose to be a temporary supply, as Flint was still in the process of building their new water source pipeline from Lake Huron.
Despite the Flint River having poor quality water, the project continued. A few months later the city issued a “boil-water advisory” to the public, as the bacteria coliform tested positive in the water. Also, an increased number of children were experiencing rashes and random illnesses. On top of the increased number of bacteria, lead found its way through the water from the old rusty water pipelines. This posed a huge health risk to the citizens of Flint, Michigan. The government responded with free filters and water bottles in late 2015. By early 2016, 87 cases of Legionnaire’s disease and 10 deaths were reported.
The problems in the city of Flint have caused major concerns across cities in America about the cleanliness of the water supply. There has been a concern that officials not throughly doing their jobs maintaining the water supply. As it happened in Flint, officials decided not to add a corrosion inhibitor when they switched the water supply to Flint River. A corrosion inhibitor works like a band-aid within the water, that restricts the water from making holes in the pipes. But the issue became much greater when lead come into play.
Once lead is present in the water the problem becomes irreversible; the pipes must be replaced, which is the only solution at this point for Flint. High levels of lead are present in the water in many of the Flint homes, as rust in the pipelines highly increase the levels of lead in the water.
An estimated 6 million cities across the nation have lead service lines in use. Trying to remove lead from the water is difficult. The problem worsens as the project progresses, and more pipelines are found in the process. This was seen in 2000 in Washington, D.C., when the city tried to fix their lead pipes, but found more as they went along. They also ran into issues as they came across private property; soon enough they just gave up.
However, it is possible to solve this issue as it seen in many cities across America. It just requires the city to have access to all of the water line in the city. Lead is also now being tested from the water of peoples homes, instead of basing tests off dates and records of the construction.
In Flint, 41.2% of residents (98,310 population) live below the poverty line. Also the median line household in is $24,862, where the rest of Michigan is $49,576. Also 56.6% of Flint is African-American, which lead to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to issue a 129-page report explaining how institutional racism contributed to the water crisis.
As of January 2017, three years later, the levels of lead no longer exceed the federal regulations, although the city of Flint is still being advised to use filtered water for cooking and drinking. Flint removed about 800 lead-tainted pipes, but the city still estimated as many 28,000 more still need to be replaced. In order for Flint to be fully repaired the city would have to use $200 million. In March 17, 2017, the EPA awarded 100 million dollars to the Flint water crises. This money, combined with the $250 million in state funding, will go into replacing the infrastructure in Flint. Construction is undergoing as of now.