by ARIEL HARSINAY
Water is the most essential part of our human existence. Water seems to us as if it is a commonplace. We need it to live, to drink, to shower, and to cook; water is always available and we never spend time thinking about the ease at which we can turn a handle and have clean available water, or question the purity of the water coming out of our faucets. However, this is not the case for residents of Flint, Michigan, a city about 60 miles northwest of Detroit. Flint holds about 100,000 citizens, 50% of which are below the poverty line. The local government of Flint, when making budget cuts, decided to cut water in order to save money. Instead of buying water from their previous source in Detroit, they opted to extract water from the local river. Immediately when beginning this process, issues arose. They began to find E. coli in the water supply, and in order to combat it used chlorine. Then, they observed that the chlorine began to make the water more corrosive, which when combined with their lead pipes, lead to obvious disaster: lead poisoning. It had never dawned on the Flint government officials to invest in anti-corrosion supplies.
The residents of Flint began to observe that they were getting rashes, facing hair loss, and having various health problems. On January 16th, after nearly two years of this water crisis, Obama declared a state of emergency. As if it wasn’t enough that the Flint local government was distributing poisonous, toxic water to their citizens, they began to threaten their residents as well. Despite the fact that the water is completely poisoned, they are still charging their citizens for it. Some residents even claim that the government is threatening to take their children away. Michigan law states that parents are neglectful if they do not possess running water in their homes, so if they choose not to pay for the water that Flint is distributing that they can’t even drink anyway, they could be convicted of child endangerment.
Some people might say to these families, “If you don’t like the conditions in Flint, just move out”. As previously mentioned, nearly 50% of Flint residents are below the poverty line. Despite this, they don’t even have the option to move out even if they are financially capable. Because the water in their homes is toxic, they cannot legally sell their homes.
The Flint local government thinks that it is acceptable to force families to pay for poison, and threaten to take away their children if they do not meet these demands. It is obvious that concerns over budgets are much more of a priority than concerns about Flint residents when it comes to the mindset of local government officials. Many Flint residents have had no choice but to only drink bottled water for the past two years, and to go to homes of their friends outside of their town anytime they want to take a shower. How long does it take for the federal government to question the decisions of local governments when it is obvious that they are abusing their power? This crisis has been a two year dilemma, but only now are we hearing about it. Beyond this question, why was it so easy for the Flint government to have complete control in making budget cuts on the water supply? It seemed that in this case, there was a complete lack of any regulations whatsoever. The simple fact that it had not even dawned on the government to use anti-corrosion supplies shows their complete ignorance on the subject and how they had no jurisdiction to make any decisions on something that they were uneducated about. Lastly, how did the local government even have the opportunity to make cuts on the water supply? Out of all areas that could be altered in order to save money, why would water seem like a brilliant idea? What crossed the minds of the government officials who believed they could save money by denying their own people something that is vital to their survival; making their water supply completely toxic, forcing their residents to pay for it, and threatening them with taking way their children when they do not comply? It seems that it was easy for the Flint local government to pick their poison.