by Karla Comayagua
Residents of Flint, Michigan were shocked when foul smelling orange water came out of their faucets and showers in April 2014. But the dangerous discovery that made Flint residents act in anger was when Virginia Tech Researchers found high levels of lead in their water.
The city took action in October when they decided to switch to a different water supply, but the damage was already done. Residents wonder why government officials did not address this health issue earlier.
Flint stopped using Detroit’s water system and began extracting water from the Flint River in an effort to save money in April 2014. Yet, the city did not take the appropriate steps to treat the harmful water even though researchers at Virginia Tech stated that the Flint River was 19 times more corrosive than Detroit’s water system.
Lead can have toxic effects on humans. Children and adults are more likely to have an intellectual disability resulting in a lowered IQ if exposed to lead accompanied by various health issues. In essence, there is no level of lead that is considered safe for humans.
LeeAnne Walters’ children, residents in Flint, tested high for lead after she exposed Flint’s lead problem. The law allows a maximum of 15 parts per billion of lead concentration, but Walters’ tap water had a toxic level of almost 400 parts per billion.
Frustrated with the cities lack of action, Walters called Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manager Miguel Del Toral and told him Flint was not using corrosion controls that would prevent the leaching of old metal pipes into the water supply. She also mentioned Flint was flushing pipes before conducting lead tests, that would not produce accurate test results.
“From a technical standpoint, there’s just no justification for the way Flint is conducting its tests. Any credible scientist will tell you [the city’s] method is not the way to catch worst-case conditions,” Del Toral told the American Civil Liberties Union.
Tests were then done without flushing the pipes and a lead concentration of 13,2000 parts per billion was found, exceeding the level that the EPA considers as toxic waste.
After several tests were conducted, all pointed to the same conclusion: Flint’s water contained unsafe levels of lead, but still city officials defended their water and refused to face the facts. By mid- October, Flint residents protested, and the press drove Governor Snyder to order that Flint’s water supply be switched back to Detroit’s system.
On January 16, President Obama declared Flint a state of emergency. National Guard troops and Red Cross volunteers have distributed water bottles, lead testing kits, and water filters to Flint residents. In addition, the city has set up public centers where residents can get their blood drawn and check for lead levels.
The residents of Flint trusted their city officials to provide clean and safe water and take immediate action. But instead, residents of Flint are left to worry about the long term effects lead poisoning will have on themselves and their families.