Water is one life’s most precious resources. In some organisms, water comprises as much as 90% of personal body weight, in humans, this ratio is 60%. Hence, when water is contaminated or sparse, life quality can be expected to drop dramatically. This sample environmental science essay explores the Flint Michigan water crisis that has been unfolding for two years ever since the city began to use water from the local Flint River (Foley). The case of Flint is a precautionary one and one worthy of intense public attention, both writing and speeches, as it may herald the need for a significant shift in America’s water management plant.
Background on the Flint, Michigan water crisis
Flint Michigan’s water crisis is a national crisis of eroding proportion. For two years, the locals have been continuously subjected to the ill effects of poisonous waters stemming from a recent change over in supply. Up until about April 2014, Flint had been totally reliant upon the water from Lake Huron purchased through Detroit (Foley). Due to the importance of food and water safety, plans to create a new regional water system that could bring tap water from the Lake Huron were then instated to set up a water harvesting system that could bring it into Flint at a better price were then initiated. Despite the well-meaning intentions, the project’s two-year delay caused a significantly unexpected turn of events when the temporary alternative water resource, the Flint River, was found to be highly contaminated.
The polluted water
The dissatisfactory nature of the water was realized nearly as soon as it was pumped from the river. The litany of complaints included that the water smelled, like metal, tasted, like metal, and looked ‘funny’ (Foley). Residents of flint pulled from their tap not clean and fresh water like that which is experienced almost universally across the united states but large jugs of brownish and foul liquid that may even be questionable to swim in (Bosman, Davey, Smith). Resident Bethany Hazard states that when she filled up her water from the faucet it came out not only brown but smelling of a sewer (Semuels).
The river itself has been a source of considerable pollution with a dead body being found in the river in addition to an abandoned car as well as abnormally high levels of trihalomethanes, and copper (Semuels). The mere fact, however, that such findings were only accidentally leaked underscores a lack of concern for the safety of Flint’s residents. The first tests on the water confirmed that indeed, something was quite wrong. The Environmental Protection Agency (the agency responsible for enforcing environmental policies in the U.S.) for instance, leaked in a memo that in the water were trace amounts of the E. Coli bacteria, a serious health hazard for people of all ages (Foley unfortunate dimension of the Flint Michigan water crisis, the economic one.
How does Flint’s water crisis affect the economy?
About 41% of the 100,000 residents who live in Michigan exist below or at the nation’s poverty line which makes this a socio-political issue as much as it is an environmental one (Foley). Indeed, the city actually was motivated to make the water switch over in the first place by financial concerns which held that an upgraded water resource could make serious improvements in the city’s strained budget. Unfortunately, the financial maneuver has ended up costing them several million more dollars than it saved.
It is this economic disparity that most likely contributed to the failing of the state authorities to properly address the issues in the time and manner due to the risk inherent to the contamination. Indeed, the first activist groups to call attention to the issue were labeled as no importance “anti-everything group” while other outspoken individuals were called rabble rousers playing “political football” (Bosman, Davey, Smith). All this backlash was made, in addition, in spite of increasingly worrisome findings concerning the water quality coming from scientists.
Only after months and months of complaints, of the grievous nature already once described, that the state officials began to conduct the logistical and technical response proper to the severity and vulnerability of the environment and population in question. Roughly a year after the citizens of Flint had been contending with their suspect water source that the state declared the public health emergency (like the emergency declared with the Zika virus) proper to the situation at hand (Bosman, Davey, Smith). The local and state authorities shortly thereafter moved the water supply back to Lake Huron through Detroit however this still could not prevent or reverse the damage done.
Sociological and health impact
The water crisis in Flint Michigan is of epidemic proportions. Near the end of 2015, the state began to realize the trouble they were so direly in. Tests were conducted on the afflicted populations to discover that indeed, many a number were critically infected lead in the blood which could likely result in lasting and chronic health problems, especially in children who are more susceptible to toxins. The list of ailments from the contaminated water resource are astounding and cautionary. Rashes, hair loss, and numerous other health ailments provide a most undesirable account of the cost not only of environmental devastation but poverty as well (Foley).
The sum effect of this water pollution on top of the poverty is the literal dying away of the home. In Flint, one in 14 homes is vacant (Mallory Sidner). This means that all around the neighborhood, houses go without occupants and thus neighborhoods go without the life they need to be at maximum functioning and appreciation. As is usually the case, poverty is matched by equally disfavored social conditions. Many business have begun to close or at least shrink causing a massive shortage in available jobs and thus income for residents (Mallory Sidner).
This has the town incredibly worried not only for the longevity not only of the town but the children as well. Children are the city’s most vulnerable population who has been affected by the tap water crisis (Mallory Sidner). A prime example of the loss that has transpired within Flint’s youth is that of eighteen year old Dominque Absell. Although possessing a common and lively appearance, Dominque has begun to experience chronic headaches, passing out, seizures, and general sickness that are cutting into his life plans severely (Mallory Sidner). It is expected that the Flint water contamination is at the root of the problem and that if not properly taken care of it could prevent Dominque from graduating and going on to his desired service in the military shortly thereafter. The only proof they have that the water is the cause is that once his mother stopped using the contaminated water, her son stopped passing out (Mallory Sidner).
Government assessment and possible solutions
Flint is filled with such charged human emotion stories. Residents frequently report feelings of abandonment by their government and much hopeless for the future of their city. Such accounts are hardly unwarranted. The government had ample suspicion and evidence to act sooner than they did however they refrained from the appropriate action, no doubt lacking the compassion and urgency necessary to make the difference. Nevertheless, the government has made some progress in assisting the city, namely a $28 million dollar request from the governor which was approved by the Michigan House a few weeks ago to aid the city (Bosman, Davey, Smith). Surely the recent storm of media coverage in Flint helped to secure the recent assistance bill. Obama himself met with Karen Weaver, the Flint Michigan mayor, stating to reports that he would:
“Be beside myself” if he were a parent in Flint and that “the notion that immediately families were not notified, this were not shut down – that shouldn’t happen anywhere” (Bosman, Davey, Smith).
Unfortunately, besides having a river contamination problem contributing to the contaminated water, there is also the suspicion aging pipes are a part of the cause (Connor and Rappleye). The dying infrastructure of Flint had prevented the necessary upgrades to the city sewer system which further contributed to the disastrous sewer effects (Semuels). Despite the rising news coverage in Flint concerning water problems, there is a general trend through the U.S. in depreciatory water quality. In 2013 for instance, America received a failing grade ‘D’ in their drinking water score from the American Society for Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure (Semuels). This most undesirable metric indicates that the infrastructure in America is approaching the final stage of its utility and is likely to widely become a liability throughout much of the U.S. It is suspected that an innovation initiative totaling more than $1 trillion dollars is needed to reverse this grade into the passing (Semuels).
It may be estimated what the costs will be if the project is not quickly instated thanks to the sobering example that is Flint Michigan’s water crisis. People throughout the nation, starting most likely in the poorest cities and districts, will begin to feel the effects of subtlety being poisoned in increasing damage until they, and their regional county, will have to individually face the disaster before them. However, if taken seriously as a country, these effects may be largely circumvented through the proposal leading to improved safety and water quality across the nation. It is no doubt that this incident will spark academic analysis from essays to dissertations for years to come even if it does not translate into much needed public policy.
Concluding thoughts on the Flint, Michigan water crisis
Flint, Michigan has gone through quite the ordeal over the past two years as they transitioned to the temporary Flint River water source. The mere fact, however, as news reports and research papers have shown, that the river was polluted in the first place is a suspect as the state’s fiscal and environmental response to the issue. Perhaps instead of letting this failure go to total waste, the nation will readily accept the lesson given and set forth the initiative to improve America’s infrastructure as a country. Indeed, this would be a most positive use of tax-payers dollars that could have lasting returns on the country’s health unlike other spending programs like that of war.
Bosman, Julie, Davey, Monica, Smith, Mitch. As Water Problems Grew, Officials Belittled Complaints from Flint. NY Times. Web. Mar. 9, 2016.
Connor, Tracy, Rappley, Hannah. NBC News. 2016. Web. Mar. 9, 2016.
Foley, Kaye. The Flint Water Crisis Explained. Yahoo.com, 2016. Web. Mar. 9, 2016.
Mallory, Simon, Sidner, Sara. Children of Flint: Inheriting anxiety and giving up hope. CNN.com. Web. Mar. 9, 2016
Semuels, Alana. Aging Pipes are Poisoning America’s Tap Water. The Atlantic, 2015. Web. Mar. 9, 2016.