Flint, Michigan Was Poisoned & An Investigation Points to the Government (Video)
The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan is one at the nexus of economics, health, politics, and potentially criminal activity. Over the course of the last several weeks, mainstream media has been focusing more and more on a story that, despite sounding hyperlocalized to one specific community, potentially has similarities to conditions in cities across the country. Thus far, the story unfolding details a series of events that began back in 2014, when officials opted to alter the city’s source of drinking water from the neighboring Great Lakes to the Flint River in an attempt to save the city significant operational costs. In so doing, Flint residents were drinking water reported to be 19-times more corrosive than Detroit’s water, with significant health hazards caused by extremely high levels of lead and other toxic ingredients. Since the news of that decision was released, reports of city-wide corruption, lack of intervention by the government, and continued attempts to cover up the situation have emerged, making this one of the greatest environmental and health crises in recent history. Officially declared a state of emergency, the city is the headquarters for a conversation about government impropriety at the cost of Americans’ wellbeing.
Today, questions like “who poisoned Flint?” and “who knew what when?” are being lobbed all over social media and other channels of communication. In fact, the former was put forth in a lengthy feature at Rolling Stone, where journalist Stephen Rodrick put together a detailed timeline beautifully embedded within his own personal story. Having grown up in a town on Flint’s outskirts, Rodrick’s perspective provides some illuminating backstory that those just arriving on the scene aren’t privy to. According to him, the Flint River had been a well-known place for various businesses to do away with their waste. “factories had been dumping sludge and crud into the river for decades,” he writes. Once news broke of the city’s decision to swap out sources of water, he returned to his former stomping grounds, where he discovered a litany of tragedies of small and large scale. “I saw orange water running from a hydrant. I read e-mails that prove the city and state decided not to chemically treat Flint’s water, something required in every town, village and city in America,” he reports. The problems are compounded by the fact that the residents of Flint are already subjected to the harsh realities of poverty, frequent arson, and rampant violence.
Rodrick’s investigation includes quotes from city officials including Flint’s congressman Dan Kildee, who explained his apprehension about the city’s move to switch to the Flint River. “We go from the freshest, deepest, coldest source of fresh water in North America, the Great Lakes, and we switch to the Flint River, which, historically, was an industrial sewer,” he tells Rodrick. Also explored at great lengths are behind-the-scenes occurrences in city meetings, personnel decisions, budgetary planning, political maneuvering, and stories from Flint residents themselves. For fans of Erin Brokovich, Rodrick’s piece is a sprawling tale of the everyman vs. The Man, and as the story continues to unfold, journalists providing such informative exposes may help usher in sweeping changes much the same way Ms. Brokovich did. Flint residents have reported extreme illnesses, particularly a high number of children dangerously underweight with aggravated autoimmune disorders. The back-and-forth between affected families and their local government is built upon countless episodes of neglect, blatant lying, doctored reports, and other unsavory actions at the hands of those paid or elected to represent Flint’s residents’ best interests.
As national media attention continues to focus on the blighted city, there will undoubtedly come resignations of city officials, a host of lawsuits, and hopefully some jail time for those who participated in the alleged cover-up. Small steps in progress seem to be in motion, as Rodrick writes. President Obama pledged $80 million in federal aid, Michigan governor Rick Snyder offered an apology and pledged aid along with the release of e-mails related to the crisis, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave a public apology and acknowledgment of their mishandling. In fact, a regional administrator of the EPA stepped down, and Flint officially switched back to Detroit as its source of water. However, the battle has only just begun. As Rodrick writes, “political blunders aside, the human costs are permanent and unforgivable. The damage to kids will be comprehensive and last a generation; the effect on learning rates, crime and other social ills is incalculable.” Nobody knows how long it will take residual amounts of lead to fully disappear, so in the meantime, the city is relying a great deal on donations of drinking water. Artists like Big Sean, Meek Mill, Jimmy Fallon, and others have donated to the city and appeals for more help will likely last a long while.
A recent CNN video package details the cover-up allegations embroiling government officials, and includes words from well-known Flint native and celebrated documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.