UPDATE: The Flint Water Crisis and the Effects Now
It’s been approximately one year since the water reaching Flint residents was officially declared to be unsafe to drink. Although the national media firestorm surrounding the crisis has started to calm down, that doesn’t mean the Flint Water Crisis is over. In fact, the residents of Flint are still facing a great deal of uncertainty.
Is the Water Safe to Drink Yet?
One of the biggest questions people still have about the water in Flint is: when will it be safe for residents to drink unfiltered water again? Even after nearly a year after Governor Snyder declared a state of emergency in the city of Flint, there still aren’t any clear-cut, easy answers to that question. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t believe the water restrictions in Flint will be coming to an end anytime soon.
The Flint Water Crisis is such a large, widespread, drawn-out problem that officials working to solve the problem simply don’t have anything else to compare it to. Other cities have had problems with lead in the drinking water, but the situation in Flint is unique for many reasons. Corrosive water spent about 18 months moving through the pipes in Flint, so the damage to the city’s water system has undergone a considerable amount of damage and officials aren’t able to say exactly how long they expect it to take to fix everything. Thousands of corroded lead pipes need to be replaced and, as of early September 2016, only 33 pipes had been replaced.
Given the health problems that come with drinking water contaminated with lead, many officials are hesitant to give an exact timeframe for how long it will be before residents can drink unfiltered water again. Some experts believe it may take at least another year for that to happen.
Although there aren’t many definitive answers, some progress is being made. By June 2016, lead levels in the water had come down enough for officials to announce that filtered tap water was now safe to be consumed by pregnant women and young children. Prior to this, it was advised that young children and pregnant women only drink bottled water since they are more susceptible to the effects of exposure to lead.
Questions about the public health issues related to the Flint Water Crisis also don’t have any clear-cut answers. No matter how old you are, there is no safe amount of lead to have in your system. However, children under the age of 6 are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure since their systems haven’t fully developed yet, so many people are particularly concerned about how this generation of children’s futures will be impacted.
In a report from CNN, the CDC says children under the age of 6 became 46% more likely to have dangerous blood lead levels when the source of Flint’s drinking water was changed. But after the water source was changed back to its original source, that percentage dropped back to what it was before the water source was originally changed. Efforts have been made to replace faucets in schools, expand Medicaid coverage, and promote awareness of nutritional efforts to help combat the effects of lead exposure, but the effects of lead poisoning can be permanent and irreversible.
The Flint Water Crisis has also been linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in Genesee County. 91 people were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease during the outbreak and 12 died as a result. Many of the Legionnaires’ Disease cases were linked to McClaren-Flint Hospital, which was getting contaminated water from the Flint River. Attorneys for McClaren Hospitals have filed court documents stating that they believe they were the victim of various crimes and cover-ups from government officials, which led to the Legionnaires’ outbreak.
Will There Ever Be Justice for Flint?
Despite the fact that the Flint Water Crisis was so incredibly preventable, holding some of the people most responsible for the disaster accountable for their actions is difficult since many government officials are protected by immunity. However, six state employees are now facing criminal charges because of their actions during the water crisis. In September, prosecutors announced that more criminal charges will likely be coming in the future.
Even if the water crisis in Flint had been resolved by now, it’s not likely that the government will ever be able to gain the trust of Flint residents again. Many residents currently feel like there simply hasn’t been enough work done to replace the city’s pipes. Queen Burton, a mother of three, told MLive that she feels like nothing has really changed. Burton’s family has had ongoing health problems ever since the water crisis began. Some residents question whether or not they can really believe the government when they say the water is safe to drink again. Some have even said they will never drink the tap water in Flint ever again.