Columns, Opinion

BURKE: Don’t forget Flint

It has been 1,250 days since city and state officials decided to temporarily use the Flint River as a source of drinking water.

In other words, 1,250 days since the people of Flint, Michigan were completely let down by the officials they elected. In their mishandling of Flint’s water supply crisis, these officials showed an ignorance that is almost unfathomable.

The Flint emergency manager, Jerry Ambrose, actively decided to not fix the problem when he denied the City of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department’s request to reconnect the city’s water supply to Lake Huron, their original source of drinking water. Rick Snyder, the state’s governor, dug Flint into an even deeper hole by fielding a completely incompetent team to manage the situation. He should have resigned years ago. A number of people in Flint are still living with gross, brown water that is smelly, contaminated with lead and entirely undrinkable.

We often use the phrase “15 minutes of fame” as a derogatory term to describe someone who got famous for a dumb reason. As I look back at this situation, I realize that in Flint, the opposite happened. Flint deserved so much more, but we, as the American public, only gave them 15 minutes of fame. After that, there were more “important” things to care about, like the Red Sox or the Patriots or even Kylie Jenner getting pregnant. It’s ridiculous. Flint is a city with just about 100,000 residents, and they still do not have an adequate supply of drinking water. The pipes have eroded beyond control and it seems like no one is doing anything to help.

I like to look at this situation as if it were my own town. I know that I definitely wouldn’t settle for some half-hearted government response three years after the crisis. The fact that it has taken this long to get a full-scale government reaction is preposterous. The actions that have been taken in the past several years should have all been taken in the first six weeks of this crisis. If Rick Snyder wins another term, I will have given up all hope in politics. No one deserves to be ousted more than he does. The people of Flint need to be given the guidance necessary to make sure that this despicable man is never in power again.

Meanwhile, the fertility rate in Flint has dropped dramatically, and the infant death rate has been on the rise. The biggest thing that residents of Flint have had to deal with is the lead in their water — the lead came from old, eroding pipes that officials overlooked in their repair work. One Flint resident actually tested their own water in 2015 and found that they had three times the amount of lead (in parts per billion) than what would be considered hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Stop and think about that for a second. People literally had hazardous waste pouring from their faucets, showers, and hoses before the government actually acknowledged there was a problem. Involuntary manslaughter charges have been filed against some city and state officials in response to the deaths of 12 citizens in connection to the water crisis, but is that really enough?

The EPA granted Flint $100 million and a federal judge approved a settlement for $98 million. This money will likely go to fixing the pipes that have destroyed the lives of the citizens. However, though this might seem like a lot, it is only expected to cover the cost of repairing pipes for about a third of Flint’s citizens. What about the rest?

If I could convey one message from this article, it would be this: please do not forget the people of Flint, Michigan. Most people already have. Find a way to give your time or money to help these people. The median household income in this city is about half of what it is around the rest of the state of Michigan. These people are being systematically oppressed and have nowhere else to go.

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