Clean, running water is such an important aspect of American life. In the past century, Americans developed and built an entire municipal water infrastructure to deliver it to every home.
It’s easy to think we’ll always have clean water. That’s why the shocking images and stories from the Flint, Michigan water crisis shook us to the core.
What occurred in Flint can occur anywhere, and there are lessons to learn. So what exactly caused the water crisis and how can you protect yourself and your family?
Read on to learn all about Flint, how and why it happened, and what we learned.
The Pride of America
The story of Flint, Michigan is the story of industrialization in America. Once home to the famous Buick City Complex, Flint during the mid-20th century was a middle-class industrial fairy tale.
The Buick City Complex closed, and the automobile industry outsourced well-paying, union assembly jobs to other countries. Flint fell into an economic depression.
A city that once carried a population of over 250,000 dropped to less than 100,000. As people fled looking for whatever work they could find in other locations, the city fell apart.
Poverty followed. More than 40% of Flint residents live under the poverty line. Flint became a forgotten enclave, a rotting relic of America’s past industrial might.
The story of Flint is not an uncommon tale among the industrial towns along the Rust Belt.
Municipalities in the Monongahela Valley where steel was king, suffered similar fates. So, too, did Appalachian coal mining towns. A lack of industry, a declining tax base, and a lack of revenue led to massive municipal debts.
This is how the Flint, Michigan water crisis started. Massive debt led to the state of Michigan’s takeover of the city’s finances.
Flint shared a municipal water system with Detroit. Facing budget shortfalls, politicians decided to switch from the more expensive Detroit municipal system. In 2014, the city switched its water source to the Flint River.
The high pollution levels in the Flint River, combined with an antiquated city pipe system, caused elevated levels of lead in the drinking water. Levels so high residents complained of hair loss and mysterious rashes.
As city residents mixed Kool-Aid in the city water so they wouldn’t gag when they drank it, they demanded EPA action. Unfortunately, the action came far too late.
The following years saw denials and cover-ups from politicians all the way up to the governor’s office.
Despite the testing revealing dangerously high lead levels, the water’s yellowed and browned appearance, and the foul odors, city and state officials maintained the water was safe to drink.
The Health Effects of Elevated Lead
When tested in 2015, Flint’s water revealed a lead level of 13,000 parts per billion (ppb). Lead levels this high, along with other water pollutants, cause many serious health issues.
If children experience high lead exposure like that found in Flint’s drinking water, the symptoms can be severe. These children experience developmental delays and learning difficulties.
Physical complications for children include:
- Drastic weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Change in behavior
Children are not alone when it comes to the dangers of lead exposure. Adult health, especially health-compromised adults face serious complications from consumption.
- Inflammation and joint pain
- Mood changes
- Elevated blood pressure
- Severe headaches
- Miscarriage or still-birth for pregnant women
Years Long Crisis
Because of the pernicious inaction as well as the cover-up by local and state officials, the Flint water crisis lasted for years.
When former President Obama drank a glass of Flint water in 2016, many thought the crisis was over. Unfortunately for the residents of Flint, that was not the case.
After months and years of advocacy in the community, a judge ordered the delivery of bottled water to Flint residents. Flint residents also won a suit ensuring the replacement of old lead pipes aided by state funding.
By February 2019, researchers finally declared Flint water safe enough to drink.
The residents of Flint went without clean drinking water for five years. Thanks to the lies and can-kicking by those in power, many residents still refuse to drink it.
The Flint crisis spurred action among the American people. Once those horrifying images of sickly children and yellow water made the national news, people started to think about the water they drink.
There are Flint’s Everywhere
Municipal and city water systems are woefully out of date. Many have not received a serious upgrade since their original construction. Lead pipes across America continue to degrade leading to contaminated water.
In 2016, the city of Pittsburgh discovered their lead levels exceeded the federal lead standard of 15 ppb. After four years of work, the city’s water finally tested below the maximum allowable.
City officials say they’ve replaced more than 3,200 lead lines across the city, though they don’t have a complete estimate of how many more need changed.
And Pittsburgh isn’t alone. There have been dozens of other municipalities realizing that they don’t have to accept the dangerous water their city provides.
Clean Water is Vital
We’ve always known the importance of clean water. The problem is, we relied on others to handle that worry for us. Those days are gone.
Imagine trying to live for five years without readily available water like the people of Flint? How would you drink, bathe, cook, and clean?
Water Filtration is Home Security
Given what we now know about Flint and the state of other municipal water systems, an investment in water filters or a whole home water filtration system is as important as a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, or security system.
You can’t trust that your tap water is clean or will remain clean forever. Filtration systems help remove lead and other harmful pollutants to keep your home’s water supply safe.
Flint Water Crisis: How Do We Move Forward?
The Flint Water crisis is an embarrassing chapter of American history. Incompetence combined with deception and avarice caused a whole city to go without clean water for half a decade.
It can happen again. If we’ve learned anything from the crisis, it’s how important clean water is and how you can’t rely on others to provide that for you. Due to this realization, individuals must invest in their own safety measures to ensure their home’s water remains pollution-free.
If you’re looking to add a water filtration system or want to replace your current water filters, we’re here to help. A great place to start is our Taste Plus fridge filters that are specifically designed for lead reduction in your drinking water. As always, if you have any questions that we can help with, please contact our filtration experts!