Flint Families Paying for Still-Unsafe Drinking Water

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
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Imagine being asked to pay to poison yourself and your family. Sounds ridiculous, right? Residents of Flint, Michigan, feel that is exactly what the government is asking them to do. Their water has been unsafe to drink for several years.

Residents have been drinking bottled water donated by the government, charities and celebrities. Some even bathe with bottled water because they do not trust the tap water is safe, regardless of what the government tells them. Trust has been broken and fear and suspicion run amok.

How Did This Happen

In 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder discovered Flint’s finances were a disaster. He appointed an emergency manager, and Flint was placed in receivership. The emergency manager’s job was to get Flint’s finances in order. Part of the effort to save the city money was to remove Flint from the Detroit Water Department, which it had been using for decades.

Flint paid to have water piped from Lake Huron, as did many communities in the surrounding region. Anti-corrosion chemicals were routinely added to the water to keep the pipes from leaching hazardous metals into the water. In 2014, the emergency manager switched Flint’s water source from Detroit and Lake Huron to the local Flint River.

In doing so, they failed to add the necessary corrosion control treatment. Lead, rust, and iron leached from the pipes into the water. Residents could even see it coming from their taps. Lead exposure can cause permanent mental and physical damage, especially in children. Other residents suffered Legionnaires’ disease, causing death in a dozen cases.

How Can This Be Fixed?

Water is treated before it arrives to our homes. One of the most common methods is called flocculation. Flocculation, in simple terms, is getting the particles suspended in water to stick together, so they can be easily removed through filtration. This process can also be used to test water to determine what is polluting it.

Anionic flocculation refers to using negatively charged ions as a polymer. Adding what professionals call a 30 percent anionic flocculent can help determine what’s wrong with your water. Knowing what is causing the problem is important. Keeping it from happening in the first place is essential. That was the biggest problem with the Flint crisis: not treating the water before it was delivered to the local population.

In Flint, it’s too late to treat the water in some places because the pipes are too corroded for safe drinking water. Fixing it would be costly and time-consuming.

What Has the Government Done for Flint?

The government is continuing to address the safety of Flint’s water. Since 2014, Michigan has spent $41 million on tax credits for Flint residents, which essentially paid for their water. The state has provided bottled water and filters for the tap water. It has tested and assured the safety of the water, as long as it is filtered. Filters and filter replacement cartridges will continue to be provided by the government.

However, on March 1, 2017, Michigan ended these tax credits because it claims tests show Flint’s water to be comparable to other cities in regard to the acceptable levels of metals. Flint’s water was tested in the hundreds of parts per billion range, when an unacceptable level would be 15 parts per billion. The state claims Flint’s water tests as being below the action levels for lead and copper, and it is safe to drink if a filter is used.

Most Flint residents feel they should not have to pay for water that is not safe to drink from the tap. The mayor and local officials agree, and they feel the residents should be given tax credits for a longer period of time.

Plans for the Future

Flint would like to remove itself from the Detroit Water Department again, but it wants to do so carefully and safely. Genesee County is constructing the Karegnondi pipeline, which will get its water from Lake Huron to serve Flint and other surrounding communities. However, the Environmental Protection Agency feels Flint is not ready to safely connect to a new water supply.

There is still too much work to be done in Flint when it comes to assessing the condition of the pipes, testing the water in specific areas and replacing pipes known to be unsafe.

In the meantime, it’s Flint residents who have to pay for potentially poisonous water. Is it fair to make them pay for water that can’t safely be drunk unless it is filtered? Many would leave Flint if they could, but who would want to buy a home in Flint now?

Photo byCatt Liu

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts oProductivity Theory. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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