Flint’s Water Crisis Shadowed Another Deadly Issue

We often don’t realize how lucky we are to have access to clean drinking water — well, at least we think it’s clean. When we open the tap, pouring a glass of water, we expect that it has been treated and does not contain harmful contaminants, which is unfortunately, not always the case.

In Flint, Michigan, an area where residents are primarily African American and low-income, there are clear concerns. Not only have people gotten sick, but there was a lack of support for far too long. No action has been taken, even though a number of residents and Genesee County environmental health supervisor Jim Henry voiced their concerns, requesting information from the city of Flint.

Why all the fuss?

Well, it’s not exactly a new concern, as an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease first occurred in 2014. During that outbreak, 45 people were sick, and sadly, five of these individuals passed away. No action was taken, and in turn, another outbreak occurred — resulting in 87 illnesses and nine deaths total. What happened here?

Related: Flint: A Failure of Government or the Cost of Bankruptcy?

Flint River, lead and Legionella bacteria 

The outbreak of this illness is believed to be caused by the city’s water supply. During this time frame, there was a switch from Lake Huron water to Flint River water. The tap water was poisoned with lead, helping Legionella bacteria thrive. Anti-corrosive chemicals weren’t used, allowing lead to leach from aging pipes.

Officials continually stated that without scientifically matching bacteria in the water to strains from victims, it’s impossible to say whether or not the deadly infections were caused by the water supply. The public wants answers, yet there appears to be a lack of responsibility. 

The Health Department, Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have offered a number of excuses as to why the water was never tested. Instead of working together in order to come to a potentially life-saving conclusion, they pointed fingers at one another. 

A number of individuals who focus on public health and Legionnaires’ disease say that the timing is unlikely a coincidence. This is a preventable disease, so it’s frustrating for those living in the affected county. It’s also important to note that this disease cannot be contracted from human to human — it is transmitted from the environment. 

In order to be affected by the bacteria, it needs to be inhaled or used during an invasive medical procedure. When consumed in drinking water, it does not threaten one’s health. Once it enters the lungs, however, a lethal case of pneumonia can set in. For those with less severe symptoms, they generally experience an illness that is similar to the flu.

Now, approaching the third year of warmed temperatures, residents are worried. As temperatures rise, Legionella bacteria thrive, feeding off flakes of iron due to aging pipes. What’s next for the city of Flint? Will action be taken in order to prevent complications this year?

Flint’s water crisis has overshadowed by toxic lead 

Although Legionnaires’ disease is serious and residents want answers, another dangerous issue surrounding the disease is being overshadowed by the current water crisis.  As a cost-saving measure, the state first switched the water supply from Lake Huron to Flint River in April 2014, despite public health concerns.

FlintsWaterCrisisShadowedAnotherDeadlyIssue_640x359Researchers knew that the water was corrosive, yet the state did not move to treat the water.  Under the ‘Safe Drinking Water Act,” the state of Michigan was responsible. As mentioned, lead leached into the water, finding its way into the homes of those who assumed they were safe. Although the city has already switched back to Lake Huron as its main source of water, the damage has been done in terms of the lead piping.

Yes, lead poisoning is very serious, and when tested, lead levels in toddlers had doubled since switching the water supply to Flint River. The fact is that nine lives have been taken, yet government officials don’t seem to want to step up and help the residents find answers, as well as closure.

Experts agree that if the water had been properly treated, 90 percent of the problems experienced would have been prevented. Now in a state of emergency, nearly 100,000 residents require clean drinking water. This crisis now has the attention of celebrities, Obama and the country as a whole.

Although some support is available — this crisis now has the attention of celebrities, Obama and the country as a whole —  the residents of Flint believe they have a long, bumpy road ahead. If you would like more information, visit Help for Flint.

—Krista Hillis

Krista Hillis is passionate about nutrition, mental health, and sustainable practices. She has her Bachelors in Psychology and Neuroscience and is still active in her research. Studying both the body and mind, she focuses on natural health and balance. Krista enjoys writing based on her ability to inspire others and increase overall awareness.



Recommended Articles