In the midst of a declining economy and a financial crisis, the city of Flint, Michigan decided to cut costs by switching their water supply from Detroit’s water system to the local Flint River.
The result has been disastrous. According to The Washington Post, water from the Flint River is filled with toxins and high levels of lead. Ingesting lead has irreversible health effects including, “reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior and reduced educational attainment,” as determined by the World Health Organization.
Their studies also found that once lead enters the bloodstream it can cause, “anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs.”
Since April 2014, residents immediately complained that the water had a foul smell and was cloudy instead of clear when coming from the faucets but city council insisted that the water was safe for drinking. The city initially blamed any health issues related to the water on older pipes.
The state of Michigan subsequently issued a notice informing Flint residents that their water contained unlawful levels of trihalomethanes, a chlorine byproduct linked to cancer and other diseases. Even families that don’t drink the water have been exposed to the same health effects through washing and cooking.
Several Flint families have since filed a class-action federal lawsuit against Governor Rick Snyder, the state of Michigan, the city and 13 other public officials for “deliberately depriving” them of their 14th Amendment rights by replacing formerly safe drinking water with a cheaper alternative that was known to be highly toxic.
Flint’s newly elected mayor, Karen Weaver, has declared a state of emergency in her city and has requested that a meeting take place before the end of the year to address the safety of the water.