Four years of protests, petitions, lawsuits, monetary donations, bottled water distribution, pipe replacements, as well as scientific testing and Environment Protection Agency involvement, have not stopped the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
The Michigan city residents and activists protested Wednesday outside the state’s capitol building for help and recognition that their water problems persist. It was a demonstration that spoke to the longstanding frustration over failures by city, state and federal officials since 2014 to permanently ensure a basic right: clean drinking water free of lead, bacteria and poisonous contaminants.
Many community members also voiced their outrage over a recent decision from Michigan state that shut down a free bottled water program, sending residents to the city’s four remaining bottled water stations to get the last of the supply on Friday. The high levels of lead had been reversed, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder also said Friday. State officials added that the city’s water has tested below the federal lead and copper limit of 15 parts per billion (ppb) for nearly two years, NBC reported.
But taxpayers, who have poured more than $350 million into Flint, are not convinced that the water supply is truly clean.
The water lead contamination, resulting from a switch from Lake Huron to the Flint River water that wasn’t properly treated in 2014, has either made tens of thousands of people, including children, sick or exposed them to harmful contaminants and significant health risks. A Legionnaire outbreak claimed the lives of 12 people, with former emergency managers and water plant employees having been charged with felonies related to the deaths.
Water at Flint’s public schools tested for high lead levels, with varying amounts of lead detected in 44.5 percent of collected samples in the district, according to a recent Michigan Department of Environmental Quality report. The city’s 13 schools have approximately 4,500 children.
Fears over untreated water have not gone away, especially in the wake of the city’s recent order to end distribution of free bottled water.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver‘s office will begin the second phase of an ongoing project to replace more than 22,000 lead-contaminated water service lines in the city, CNN reported. However, that measure, scheduled to end in 2022, doesn’t seem like enough with residents, especially people of color, still crying out for help.