Government inaction leaves Flint in mounting health crisis

By Samantha Moffett, COLUMNIST
On October 2, 2017

Four years after government officials in Flint, Michigan switched the city water supply from Detroit to the contaminated Flint River, the people of Flint still do not have clean water. More needs to be done to address the city’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.

A study published last month by economics professors Daniel Grossman of West Virginia University and David Slusky of University of Kansas found that, since the Flint River became the city’s water source in 2014, the number of births per woman aged 15-49 has fallen by 12 percent, while the number of fetal deaths has increased by 58 percent.

The study also unveiled that exposure to lead — a neurotoxin that can cause irreversible developmental and behavioral problems in children, according to Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital — is taking a toll on infants and children, as there has been a 5 percent drop in average birth weight for babies in Flint. This trend is not observed in other parts of Michigan.

These are only some of the tragic results of years of lousy, deceitful leadership from the City of Flint.  

Once home to a thriving economy centered on car manufacturing plants, Flint is now the poorest city in the U.S., according to 2016 Census figures.  

When the car manufacturing plants closed down in 2011, Flint lost most of its population. In an attempt to cut costs, an emergency official for the city made the switch from the Detroit water supply to nearby Lake Huron in 2013.

While pipelines to Lake Huron were being created, water from the Flint River was temporarily pumped into the city. Only a month after Flint began using the river water, complaints of contamination from residents flooded into city hall, only to be dismissed by officials.

“It’s regular, pure, good drinking water and it is right in our back yard,” Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said April 25, 2014. “This is the first step in the right direction for Flint.”

In January 2015, the water showed levels of lead and disinfectant by-product so high they violated the Safe Drinking Water Act. Still, officials urged residents not to worry and to continue using the water.

It was not until Oct. 16, 2015 that officials decided to switch the city’s water source back to the Detroit River. This action, however, did not do enough to fix the contamination issue.

Improper upkeep of corroded Flint pipelines caused a lead leakage into the city’s water, prompting a public health crisis that continues to affect citizens today.

While families watch helplessly as this nightmare unfolds, the municipal, state and federal government’s focus should now be on combatting the long-term effects of lead exposure on citizens’ health.

If the government does not subsidize medical programs, financial strain may prevent many Flint residents from seeking the care necessary to address the health problems they’ve developed as a result of city officials’ poor choices.

Flint’s 40.1 percent poverty rate reported by CNN continues to increase as families are forced to pay for contaminated water and the medical attention they need from consuming it.

While steps have been taken to improve conditions in Flint, not enough has been done to offset the poisoned water’s impact on locals’ health.

More intense actions must be taken in order to recover from this trauma.

U.S. pipeline systems must be improved. Social programs must be put in place to help children who may have developmental problems from contaminated water. Emergency health care systems should be heavily subsidized to guarantee ill citizens will have access to the medical attention they need. Officials who were catalysts in providing contaminated water need to be held accountable.

 

Samantha Moffett is a freshman majoring in mass communications. 

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