It has been nearly three years since the city of Flint, Michigan switched its water source from Detroit to the Flint River. Having been intended as a short-term measure, it set in motion a crisis that resulted in thousands of children being exposed to lead contamination and 10 fatal cases of Legionnaire’s disease. Water from the Flint River was found to contain exorbitant amounts of lead and even though Rick Snyder, Governor of Michigan, recognized that there was a lead problem, a succession of local, state and national administrators failed to take preventative action when it was most needed.
Indeed, it was this governmental intransigence which exacerbated the fallout from the Flint Water Crisis, which has left a lasting mark on the city despite its water levels returning to a safe level during the winter. Snyder publicly acknowledged that it was “a failure of government at all levels”, with 13 criminal indictments arising from the unscrupulous mismanagement of the crisis.
In reviewing the whole regrettable tale, there are valuable lessons to be taken from how it all happened. Flint’s administrators failed to ensure that optimized corrosion control treatment was applied, which allowed corrosive water to pass through an aging pipe system. It emerged that the corrosive inhibitors necessary to stop this from happening would have cost just $51,000 a year, a small price to pay for safeguarding the water being supplied to its citizens.
Water is such a precious resource that it cannot be mistreated or neglected in this way. Hopefully the Flint Water Crisis will encourage other cities to undertake a rigorous analysis of their water testing protocols so that we don’t end up with another that requires almost $400 million in federal and state aid to fix.
For further reading on the Flint Water Crisis, check out this infographic from The Water Filter Men.