The Prism: Every Side of the Story

Lost Story: Flint, Michigan

Since, April 2014, Flint Michigan has been dealing with lead contamination of the water supply which originated when the city of Flint changed their source of water from  Lake Huron to the Flint River. It was an attempt to save money while making a grave mistake and possibly ruining many lives. Only recently has the government said the water is safe to drink.

Children began to get sick from lead poisoning because of the contaminated water. When the government was questioned regarding the safety of their water they denied all allegations and didn’t admit to their mistake. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Flint’s public hospital and a professor at Michigan State University’s College of Medicine, made it her mission to find the reason behind the many children getting sick. Over the course of 17 months, the number of children treated for lead poisoning doubled if not tripled. After she gave a speech regarding her findings, she was attacked by the Department of Environmental Quality and a spokesperson from the Governor’s office.

The allegations from Dr. Hanna-Attisha caused the government in Flint to tell the truth about the contamination. An article from CBS News revealed that it was caused by the “vital chemicals required by law to control corrosion in old lead pipes were not added after the switch to Flint River water, causing lead to flake off.” The death rates from Legionnaire’s disease increased.

An article from CNN revealed the fact that research has shown that “the Flint water crisis most likely caused the deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease that killed at least 12 people since 2014.” It is believed that the lack of corrosion control caused this outbreak. As a result of this crisis, Flint residents have filed lawsuits against the government under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Five government officials have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. One of the five, Nick Lyon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, “was charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, felonies that could lead to as much as 20 years in prison,” The New York Times states.

As of spring of 2018, the government said the water is now safe to drink. They also ended their distribution of free water bottles. Although the water is now supposedly safe to drink, it is recommended that the residents use a filter. Many of the Flint residents have lost trust in their government, so although the water is now said to be safe, they aren’t drinking it.

Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech water expert, says that this can happen again. There are lead pipes all over the country and we don’t know where all of them are. So when the lead starts to detach from the pipes, the water will be filled with lead and the people won’t notice until it is too late. The only way to be sure that a house has lead pipes is to dig a hole to see them.  

Further reading on this topic:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-flint-water-crisis-a-loss-of-trust/
https://www-m.cnn.com/2017/03/30/health/legionnaires-disease-flint-water-crisis-study/index.html
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-water/u-s-supreme-court-allows-flint-water-contamination-lawsuits-idUSKBN1GV1RB

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