But Not a Drop to Drink

But Not a Drop to Drink

Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,26 January 2016

From the moment we wake until it’s time for bed, we take water for granted. It’s there when you brush your teeth, wash fruits and vegetables for meals, bathe your children, make the coffee or put some ice cubes in a medicinal cocktail. In a prolonged drought, we have tightened water restrictions but by and large, in ‘Murica, when we need clean water we get it. It’s one of the most basic services we expect the government to provide. Even the anti-gov nutjobs aren’t hauling in their own water in buckets from the river. They turn on the tap to make instant soup in the wildlife refuge they’ve illegally occupied or to shower before their press conferences.

But not in Flint, Michigan. In Flint, people had been saying for almost 2 years that something was wrong with the water. But the state-selected city manager and appointed officials did nothing to help; they described complaints as the act of people “crying wolf” and attempts to score political points. And these un-elected officials were believed over the city residents who were too poor, disenfranchised, and melanin-enhanced to matter to the political elite who made the rules.

When you drink water with lead in it, you lose your appetite. Your hearing can suffer, you become tired and have intense abdominal pain. You can develop mood disorders, memory loss, and have miscarriages. Your children can become irritable, their development gets delayed and they can have learning difficulties. And you can’t fix it. The effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.

So imagine you wake up one day not feeling so good. Your daughter has been acting up and just cannot finish any of her homework. You think something isn’t right so you contact the health department. They tell you not to worry. You contact the city government. They say it’s all in your head. Then much, much later you find it was deemed more economically feasible for unelected officials to switch the water supply for your forgotten and neglected city. And now the whole world knows profits and budgets were worth more than the health of you and your community.

Would you feel better because your State’s Attorney General launched a probe into who was responsible? Or because of an apology from the same governor who put your city under emergency management — which was how your water supply got switched to the poisoned river in the first place?

People, from a Chicago firefighter to Cher to Jimmy Fallon, are sending money and bottled water to Flint. And that is commendable. But that doesn’t provide a long term fix for the aging and poisoned infrastructure. That doesn’t help a city cope with health problems now and potentially significant behavior and health problems years down the road. There is more than enough blame to go around for all levels of government and industry (though slightly hilarious sounding when the same politicians who make the EPA toothless blame the EPA). But with the public’s attention span lasting as long the amount of time Donald Trump can go without saying something offensive, how in the hell will local/state/federal government or anyone else be able to develop and carry out a long-term solution?

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Image Credit: Bart on Flickr

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