The Flint Michigan water crisis is bringing to the forefront something we rarely think about - the effect of lead on the human body. It almost seems anachronistic these days. Humans have known about the problems of lead poisoning for centuries
, way longer than we've understood germs, or the basic structure of the solar system. It's amazing that despite knowing the problems for over a millennium that we done so little to eliminate its dangers from our lives, simply because it is so useful. We used lead in paint to brighten the colors and lead in gasoline to enhance the octane ratings. We finally smartened up and eliminated lead from paint in 1978 and from gasoline in 1985.
That's why it's so maddening that due to cutting corners to save on costs, the people of Flint, Michigan have been poisoned by their elected (and appointed) leaders. It's worse than that, though.
The government decided to switch the water source from Detroit to a local supplier in April 2014. It didn't take long before they noticed a problem. Every action that was taken
to alleviate one problem ended up creating a worse one, until a Virginia Tech study released in Aug 2015 showed that lead levels in the water in some homes was 10 times the safe limit.
That was over 7 months ago. In the interim, the people there have had the choice of using contaminated water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc., or try to use bottled water instead when available and when doable. Can you imagine trying to go 7 months without using the water in your house for anything except flushing the toilet?
What should (and may) be criminal is that a state government office in Flynt provided workers bottled water to drink in Jan 2015
, while the residents had to make do with the smorgasbord of deadly chemicals flowing from their faucets.
This is your Republican policy at work. They want to privatize public works, but then there is no accountability or recourse. The blame gets passed around, excuses and delays get thrown as red herrings on the way to justice, and the people suffer with a broken and dangerous system that used to be safe to the point of being boring and ubiquitous. Government isn't always fast or efficient, but it also does not seek a profit. The pursuit of profit results in cut corners, and a lack of respect for cumbersome regulations created over years of committing mistakes and resolving problems - regulation created to prevent them from occurring again.
For Flint, the pipes are already damaged, and undoing the damage so they no longer leach lead may take time. That is something that the residents there have already spent too much of looking for a resolution, and really have no more of. This requires a big immediate expensive fix.
And jail time for those who created the problem. There must be consequences.