May 2014. That is when the complaints started, less than one month after officials in the town of Flint, Michigan made the fateful decision to switch their water source.
It was meant to be a temporary measure. A new system was being completed to get water from Lake Huron. Although it would be three years until it was ready, Detroit told Flint they would stop selling them water in only a year.
In April of 2014, the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) assured Flint residents they would not notice the difference as they began getting their drinking supply from the Flint River.
As more and more people begin to report the “weird” water, Mayor Dayne Walling and the DEQ continued to insist that it was safe. They began treating the “safe” water with lime.
In August, residents of the town were ordered to begin boiling their water after it tested positive for e.coli. Only a couple weeks pass before the second boil advisory is issued.
In October, the General Motors plant is granted permission to begin using water from an alternative line. It seems the water that the town of Flint was drinking was rusting car parts at the plant.
No plan was put in place to give the citizens a different water source, just the cars.
2015 rolled around and the city announced that the water was safe to continue drinking, as long as you had a healthy immune system. However, it contained such levels of a disinfectant byproduct that it was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
After protests broke out, along with numerous health complaints, Detroit offerd to let Flint switch back to their water supply. The city’s emergency manager declared that it would be too expensive. Instead, they hired a consultant for $40,000 that stated the water was discolored and full of sediment, but safe to drink.
The EPA’s water expert sent an internal memo in June. He informed his supervisors that Flint’s failure to use chemicals to control corrosion was dangerous resulting in lead leaching into water from the pipes. Residents were not made aware of this fact until the memo was leaked, weeks later, by the ACLU.
A pediatrician from Hurley Children’s Hospital conducted testing to compare blood samples from Flint’s children and found a massive spike in lead poisoning. Michigan officials said their samples didn’t find similar results. Seven days later, the state retracted that statement and agreed with the pediatrician’s findings.
The governor then announced that water filters would be installed and schools would be tested for lead levels. Less than a week later the announcement was made that he was recommending Flint go back to using Detroit water. Receiving $6 million from the state, Flint made the switch within two weeks.
It was too little, too late. Governor Snyder declared a state of emergency in Flint and the Department of Justice opened an investigation. The revelations were truly a crisis. An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease was occuring and multiple deaths seemed attributable to the water.
Then President Obama signs an emergency declaration and orders federal aid to the town. That was the end of his assistance. Two years into the crisis and Obama was hiding his head in the sand with the rest of the Democrats.
Focused instead on pardoning criminals and allowing terrorists into our country, Obama was far too busy to worry about a town being poisoned and people dying.
Enter President Trump, two months into his term. Under his direction, the EPA is finally doing something worthwhile and giving Flint $100 million to replace the eroded and badly damaged water infrastructure. Michigan will provide the required 20% match under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt spoke to the press on Friday, stating;
“The people of Flint and all Americans deserve a more responsive federal government. EPA will especially focus on helping Michigan improve Flint’s water infrastructure as part of our larger goal of improving America’s water infrastructure.”
— Nancy ن (@LVNancy) March 20, 2017
Where was the EPA in 2014? Or 2015? Or 2016 for that matter? It has taken 3 years, dozens of illnesses and death, and a new president for them to deem it necessary to get involved.
At least 2,000 Flint citizens are asking themselves the same questions. They are now part of a civil action lawsuit against the EPA asking for $722 million in damages. The suit alleges that the EPA failed to address the crisis in a timely manner and with the proper steps.
Both Republicans and Democrats are pleased with the president’s decision to finally grant them some help.
“We are excited and very grateful to receive these much-needed funds,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. “The City of Flint being awarded a grant of this magnitude in such a critical time of need will be a huge benefit.”
The money will be very little comfort to the families in Flint who are suffering from illnesses. Citizens report hair loss, weight loss, and rashes as just a few of the symptoms. Tragically, it will be the children who could suffer brain damage or developmental delays as a result of lead poisoning. They will suffer the most.
In just over a year of drinking the water, 90 cases of the bacterial disease, Legionnaires, were diagnosed. At least 10 of those were fatal. No amount of money can fix that.