How many times each day do we go to the water tap, run cold water, fill a glass, and then quench our thirst? I drink about 4 litres of water every day, about 16 cups. Do I even think about whether the water is fit to drink? Not usually. But what happens when the water becomes unfit to drink , , , like in Flint, Michigan?
Democracy Now — In Flint, Michigan, a growing number of residents are demanding the arrest of Governor Rick Snyder over the ongoing water contamination crisis. Snyder declared a state of emergency for Flint Wednesday, after learning federal prosecutors had opened an investigation into lead contamination in the drinking water. The poisoning began after an unelected emergency manager appointed by Governor Snyder switched the city’s water source to the long-polluted Flint River in a bid to save money. Lead can cause permanent health impacts including memory loss and developmental impairment. Researchers at Virginia Tech who have been testing Flint water say the city could have corrected the problem by better treating the water at a cost of as little as $100 a day. On Thursday, the mayor of Flint revealed it could now cost as much as $1.5 billion to fix the city’s water infrastructure. We speak to Curt Guyette, investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, who has closely covered the story.
Common Dreams — The Republican governor appointed Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley who enforced the April 2014 decision to switch from the Detroit system to the Flint River to source water. In an angry letter to Snyder, filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore wrote:
Your staff and others knew that the water in the Flint River was poison — but you decided that taking over the city and "cutting costs" to "balance the budget" was more important than the people's health (not to mention their democratic rights to elect their own leaders.) So you cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint (including myself) had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River — a body of "water" where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years. And then you decided to put a chemical in this water to "clean" it — which only ended up stripping the lead off of Flint's aging water pipes, placing that lead in the water and sending it straight into people's taps.
Moore, in fact, is circulating a petition calling on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to arrest Snyder for "corruption and assault."
Al Jazeera — This emergency goes beyond simply a public health problem. (Lead is a potent neurotoxin, which can cause irreversible brain damage in children.) It is something much worse: a human rights abuse in an American city. In 2010, the United Nations declared that “ … clean drinking water … [is] essential to the realization of all human rights.” Flint’s contaminated water will prevent children from realizing their human right to health, enumerated in Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Public reaction is understandably very heated. This crisis is totally man made — Republican man made — and the result of Republican ineptitude, greed, and bigotry. In Flint, 40% of the people live in poverty. Many of the people are African American. The old lead city water distribution pipes were corroded by the Flint River toxic water, so much so that a return to getting water from Lake Huron through Detroit is not working. The pipes were corroded and continue to leach lead into the water. The only solution is the replacement of the city water pipes at a cost of $1.5 – $2 BILLION. On top of that, I would expect a class action lawsuit against the state, Snyder and a whole spate of other administrative persons who failed in their fiduciary responsibility to the people.