FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A Crisis With No End: Why Flint is Still the Issue

Photo by Keoni Cabral | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Keoni Cabral | CC BY 2.0

 

Last year the water crisis in Flint, Michigan made headlines for weeks, even though by the time it finally did the damage was done. The water that residents of Flint were forced to drink, over 100,000 of them, was tainted with lead, lots of it. Upwards of 12,000 children, most from minority, poor neighborhoods, had elevated levels of the metal in their blood. Today, the lead in Flint’s water has taken a physical, as well as a mental toll on those impacted and the water is still tainted.

“I get really emotional about it, because I have no idea about the effects it will have,” Sarah Conn recently told CBC. “[My son] could have cognitive problems and behavioral problems when he gets older and I won’t know for sure if the lead is why, or not, and it makes me really sad.”

Federal regulators announced on March 7 that 90 percent of water samples taken in Flint were now below federal levels for lead content. But these tests are very misleading, if not outright bogus. The official federal level for lead contamination is 15 ppb and Flint’s water is coming in at around 12 ppb in most cases. However, this is still not as low as levels ought to be, especially for growing children. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health recommends that drinking water for kids should not exceed 1 ppb of lead and the new proposed state standard in Michigan is 10 ppb. To top it off, nearly 28,000 residences in Flint still need to have their old pipes replaced. Thus far the city has only completed 800 homes.

“There have been constant improvements [in water quality], there’s no question about that, but I don’t consider that an all clear,” retired Brig. Gen. Michael C. McDaniel told reporters at a recent national water infrastructure conference in Flint.

That’s not all that comforting to those living in Flint who’ve been dependent on bottled water for daily needs like brushing and drinking for the past year. Adding insult to injury, water bills in Flint have also skyrocketed. The state’s subsidy on water in the city, which cut bills by 65 percent, ended last month. So as of March people in Flint are paying a lot more, in most cases double their previous bill, for water that still doesn’t meet the state’s proposed levels.

“We can’t keep living this. It’s killing us. It’s literally killing us to live this and it’s going on its second year now … I’m living a low standard life,” says Flint resident and activist Gladyes Williamson. “This is not a third world country. This is the United States of America. This is Michigan”

Flint, of course, is just the tip of the lead-laden iceberg. Across the United States an estimated 10 million underground lead pipes must be replaced, with only a few cities actively addressing the issue. In the Bronx, for example, two public schools, P.S.41 and I.S.158, had staggering lead readings in February ranging from 63.8 ppb to 442 ppb. The nation’s aging water infrastructure, if it isn’t tackled immediately, could harm an untold number of people, primarily children who are most susceptible to lead’s various impacts, like poor cognitive development.

“And in the aftermath of Flint, what we now realize is … that probably we’re never going to be able to say that it’s safe to drink water from a lead pipe — not only in Flint but in fact, all around the United States,” Marc Edwards, an engineer at Virginia Tech, told PRI. “What we discovered in Flint is that some of the worst houses actually had a lead pipe followed by a galvanized iron pipe. And what had happened over the almost a century some of these pipes had been in the ground is, the iron rust on the galvanized iron pipe sponged up lead at very, very high levels.”

The scenario Prof. Edwards lays out is occurring across the country. With weak federal drinking water standards, an understaffed EPA and a Trump administration hell-bent on slashing agency funds, the problem of lead-polluted water will only get worse. Sadly, the ultimate toll this catastrophe has on all those vulnerable children in Flint and elsewhere won’t be known for decades to come.

More articles by:

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair, is Big Heat: Earth on the Brink. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank

March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
Kenn Orphan
Grieving in the Anthropocene
Jeffrey Kaye
On the Death of Guantanamo Detainee 10028
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
In Salinas, Puerto Rico, Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria
Ben Debney
Christchurch, the White Victim Complex and Savage Capitalism
Eric Draitser
Did Dallas Police and Local Media Collude to Cover Up Terrorist Threats against Journalist Barrett Brown?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Straighten Up and Fly Right
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s $34 Trillion Deficit and Debt Bomb
David Rosen
America’s Puppet: Meet Juan Guaidó
Jason Hirthler
Annexing the Stars: Walcott, Rhodes, and Venezuela
Samantha M. - Angelica Perkins
Our Green New Deal
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Nightmare Budget
Steven Colatrella
The 18th Brumaire of Just About Everybody: the Rise of Authoritarian Strongmen and How to Prevent and Reverse It
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Riding the Wild Bull of Nuclear Power
Michael K. Smith
Thirty Years Gone: Remembering “Cactus Ed”
Dean Baker
In Praise of Budget Deficits
Howard Lisnoff
Want Your Kids to Make it Big in the World of Elite Education in the U.S.?
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Foreign Policy is Based on Confrontation and Malevolence
John W. Whitehead
Pity the Nation: War Spending is Bankrupting America
Priti Gulati Cox
“Maria! Maria! It Was Maria That Destroyed Us!” The Human Story
Missy Comley Beattie
On Our Knees
Mike Garrity – Carole King
A Landscape Lewis and Clark Would Recognize is Under Threat
Robert Fantina
The Media-Created Front Runners
Tom Clifford
Bloody Sunday and the Charging of Soldier F
Ron Jacobs
All the Livelong Day      
Christopher Brauchli
Banking, Wells Fargo-Style
Jeff Mackler
After Week-Long Strike, Oakland Teachers’ Contract Falls Short
Chuck Collins
Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism!
Binoy Kampmark
Grounding Boeing
James Munson
Why Are We Still Sycophants?
Jill Richardson
Politicians Are Finally Catching Up on Marijuana
Warren Alan Tidwell
Disasters Don’t Discriminate, But Disaster Recovery Does
Robert Koehler
Artifial Morality
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Goodenough Island in MacArthur’s Wake
Alex McDonald
U.S. Iran Policy: What is Great?
Tracey L. Rogers
Stop Making Women Apologize
John Sarbanes – Michael Brune
To Clean Up the Planet, Clean Up DC First
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail