Friday, March 18, 2016
Lead in Water Crisis Raises Issues of Public Health and Education
By Jonathan Sanzari
On Jan. 16, President Obama declared a state of emergency for the city of Flint, Michigan. Residents there are having a severe water crisis that has been ongoing for the past two years. Their water supply is contaminated with lead and went overlooked since April 2014 when the city began to get their water from the Flint River. The city manager appointed by the governor to run Flint sought to save money by switching its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River
According to CNN, “the switch was made during a financial state of emergency for the ever-struggling industrial town. It was supposed to be temporary while a new state-run supply line to Lake Huron was ready for connection. The project was estimated to take about two years.” However, corrosive river water caused lead particles to get in the drinking water. Service lines in Flint and many other communities are made of lead pipes.
On Feb. 25, Ramapo College of New Jersey hosted a panel of scholars to discuss the Flint water crisis. Each professor conveyed a distinctive perception on the situation and also discussed alternative solutions that could have avoided the water catastrophe. Among the speakers, they mentioned that this could have easily been prevented and the filters that the city gave out are rendered useless with a contamination of this magnitude.
The panelists stated government agencies routinely victimize residents and have an ideology of cost-cutting regardless of consequences. The legal system is not structured to protect the most vulnerable and eventually comes back to trouble the community. The pipes in Flint should have been treated with an anticorrosion agent before residents started using their tap-water.
A panelist mentioned, “we as a society are tolerant of risk.” Apparently, to many authorities whatever will save us money is in our best interest, regardless of the endangerment of the public’s health. According to CNN, there was an e-mail exchange among Flint officials that could have prevented this widespread hysteria of water contamination. “The email exchange is dated six months after the water supply switch, a decision made by emergency manager Edward Kurtz, who was appointed by the governor. Kurtz is blamed for making the decision to switch the water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure,” CNN reported.
The public was told that the water was safe to drink after they switched it from Lake Huron to the Flint River. This leaves a growing concern for the public if they can truly believe what their local government is telling them. One of the panelists suggested we have “intermediate watchdogs or keepers to ensure water safety.” This would be a more reassuring alternative to the public to prevent future water contaminations.
Professor Chuck Stead said, “we all have a hand in it. Education belongs to the people. We need to engage communities and not be limited to the classroom.” The public merits transparency with its local government and shouldn’t be withheld information that could prevented health complications.