Flint: Two Years Later
Two years ago, news of a water crisis in Flint swept the internet. The response on social media could be called the beginning of the online activist age, with petitions and complaints going viral on Twitter. However, the world moved on, as Flint remained mired in corruption and plagued by poison. This is why, on January 5th of this year, Michigan Live published an article with the devastating title “Two years after Flint water emergency declaration, legislators call for action”.
Incredibly belated reaction aside, the response indicates an unwillingness to act to benefit citizens, especially those that are most disadvantaged. While bills have been proposed, most of them have remained in the Michigan legislature. Bills that have been passed include required notification when lead levels are exceeded, however more proactive bills remain in Congress. Additionally, recommendations made by a Joint Task force have been heard, but have not been implemented.
The impact of this has been, for many citizens, underwhelming. While the state has declared the water safe to drink, this only when it is filtered. The lead pipes have not all been replaced. The crisis is ongoing for several citizens who were affected. Voice of America conducted an interview with Ariana Hawk, whose son’s scars came to represent the crisis of Flint to the nation. Hawk explains how she drives each day to a water bottle distribution center to get water for her family. The lead poisoning scars on her son’s face remind her each day the threat unbottled water can hold.
Hawk’s story is not unique. The water crisis has led to a deep distrust of municipal services by Flint residents. Even as the final trial of those charged with fault in the crisis begins this week, Flint citizens cannot move past the traumatic events of two years ago.
Meanwhile, lead poisoning is pervasive throughout the rest of the United States. A study conducted by Reuters at the close of 2016 found that more than 3000 localities have lead levels higher than those found in Flint. The specifics of the findings were even more concerning. Some cities had up to fifty percent of their children diagnosed with elevated lead levels. These disparities consistently lead to slower development. 1,100 communities had blood tests with lead levels four times higher than Flint overall. These numbers do not even include the states that refused to report their data, or where the data was incomplete.
For many of these cities, response has been even slower than in Flint. With no national recognition and no significant increase in funding, the future for these cities is as murky as the water they drink.