23 thoughts on “Urban Geography Blog Assignment #5 – 2017 – Flint Water crisis

  1. Flint, Michigan, has become synonymous with the failure caused by political agendas and mismanagement of resources. To this day, a solution has not been issued and the residents of Flint continue to be deprived of potable water to drink. The city officials wanting to reduce costs created a health disaster that has affected all the residents.
    At one point, Flint was a thriving city where the largest General Motors plant in the United States was located. However, in the 1980s , GM began to close down plants and Flint’s was one of those shut down for good. Nowadays is a poor city were 41% of its residents live below the poverty line. Most of its residents are African American (57%).

    After a budget cut in 2011, the city switch water sources from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014. This was to be only temporary while a new pipeline was being constructed to continue supplying water from Huron to Flint. Studies performed in earlier decades showed that the water in the river was polluted with fecal matter, pesticides, fertilizers, and industrial/farm waste. The water had become highly corrosive which made it unfit for human consumption. Such corrosive water began deteriorating the old lead pipes that brought the liquid into people’s homes. Residents began to exhibit the symptoms of lead consumption: impaired cognition, behavioral disorders, hearing problems, delayed puberty, reduced fetal growth, kidney problems, heart problems, and neurological damage.

    At the end of my discussion I’ll post a timeline found on CNN that shows how the Flint crisis emerged step by step.

    What is relevant about this issue at Flint (MI) is the fact that this problem might be more common than what we think and more dangerous than we are led to know. Many cities in the United States have made, are in the process of making, or will make budget cuts that will in one way or another affect their residents. Infrastructure that is not seen on regular bases are taken for granted and people depend on city officials to continue a smooth and trustworthy flow of services.

    The Flint Water Crisis in one amongst hundreds in this country. Just recently, the Oreville Dam in California suffered large damage to its spillway due to uncommon weather patterns in the area. For decades, officials have warned the government of the fragility of the dam and the danger of a dam failure. The Oroville dam is not the only one in the country to be thought in need of immediate attention. and it is not the only type of structure either. Bridges, roads, electrical grids and sewer systems have been in need of maintenance and upgrades for sometime now. Sadly, politicians don’t seem to find neutral ground when addressing the issue and tend to always gravitate to temporary solutions that may only ‘slap a coat of paint’ on the surface while disguising the magnitude of the problem. It continues to be an issue all across the United States. Bandages do not fix the infrastructure problems.

    Timeline:
    2007 – Flint prepares to tap into the Flint River as a backup water source, despite residents’ concerns about sewage spills and industrial waste. Flint is the only city in Genesee County poised to use the Flint River as an emergency water source, according to the county’s drain commissioner.
    March 22, 2012 – Genesee County announces a new pipeline is being designed to deliver water from Lake Huron to Flint. The plan is to reduce costs by switching the city’s water supplier from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA).
    April 16, 2013 – On the city council’s recommendation Andy Dillon, state treasurer, authorizes Flint to make the switch. One day later, the DWSD terminates its water service contract with Flint, effective April of 2014. There are further discussions, however, between Flint’s leaders and the DWSD about options that would allow the city to purchase Detroit water after the contract ended. Flint resumes buying Detroit water in October of 2015.
    April 21, 2014 – The changeover to the Flint River is delayed by days as workers complete construction of a disinfectant system at the treatment plant.
    August 14, 2014 – The city announces fecal coliform bacterium has been detected in the water supply, prompting a boil water advisory for a neighborhood on the west side of Flint. The city boosts the amount of chlorine in the water and flushes the system. The advisory is lifted on August 20.
    September 5, 2014 – Flint issues another boil water advisory after a positive test for total coliform bacteria. The presence of this type of bacteria is a warning sign that E. coli or other disease-causing organisms may be contaminating the water. City officials tell residents they will flush the pipes and add more chlorine to the water. After four days, residents are told they can safely resume drinking water from the tap.
    October 1, 2014 – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issues a governor’s briefing paper outlining possible causes for the contamination issues. Among the problems are leaking valves and aging cast iron pipes susceptible to a buildup of bacteria. The MDEQ concludes flushing the system and increasing chlorine in the water will limit the number of boil water advisories in the future.
    October 2014 – The General Motors plant in Flint stops using the city’s water due to concerns about high levels of chlorine corroding engine parts. The company strikes a deal with a neighboring township to purchase water from Lake Huron in lieu of using water from the Flint River. The switch is anticipated to cost the city $400,000.
    January 2, 2015 – The city warns residents the water contains byproducts of disinfectants that may cause health issues including an increased risk for cancer over time. The letter is sent after the state finds that the level of disinfecting chemicals in the water exceeds the threshold set by the Safe Drinking Water Act. The water is deemed safe for the general population, but the elderly and parents of young children are cautioned to consult with their doctors.
    January 12, 2015 – The DWSD offers to reconnect the city with Lake Huron water, waiving a $4 million fee to restore service. City officials decline, citing concerns water rates could go up more than $12 million each year, even with the reconnection fee waiver.
    January 21, 2015 – Residents tote jugs of discolored water to a community forum. The Detroit Free Press reports children are developing rashes and suffering from mysterious illnesses.
    February 2015 – The MDEQ notes some “hiccups” in the transition, including a buildup of TTHM, a cancer-causing byproduct of chlorine and organic matter. In a background paper submitted to Governor Rick Snyder, the MDEQ states that elevated TTHM levels are not an immediate health emergency because the risk of disease increases only after years of consumption. Snyder announces a $2 million dollar grant to fix problems in the pipes and sewers.
    February 26, 2015 – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notifies the MDEQ it has detected dangerous levels of lead in the water at the home of Flint resident Lee-Anne Walters. A mother of four, she had first contacted the EPA with concerns about dark sediment in her tap water possibly making her children sick. Testing revealed that her water had 104 parts per billion (ppb) of lead, nearly seven times greater than the EPA limit of 15 ppb.
    March 18, 2015 – Walters follows up with the EPA after another test indicates the lead level in her water is 397 ppb.
    March 23, 2015 – Flint City Council members vote 7-1 to stop using river water and to reconnect with Detroit. However, state-appointed emergency manager, Jerry Ambrose overrules the vote calling it “incomprehensible” because costs would skyrocket and “water from Detroit is no safer than water from Flint.”
    June 5, 2015 – A group of clergy and activists file a lawsuit against the city, claiming that the river water is a health risk. The city attorney fires back in July that the lawsuit is baseless. The case is dismissed in September.
    June 24, 2015 – An EPA manager issues a memo, “High Lead Levels in Flint,” warning the city is not providing corrosion control treatment to mitigate the presence of lead in drinking water. According to the memo, scientists at Virginia Tech tested tap water from the Walters’ home and found the lead level was as high as 13,200 ppb. Water contaminated with 5,000 ppb of lead is classified by the EPA as hazardous waste. Three other homes also have high lead levels in the water, according to the memo. Walters sends the memo about lead in her tap water to an investigative reporter from the ACLU, Curt Guyette.
    July 9, 2015 – The ACLU posts a video about the lead in Walters’ water. Flint Mayor Dayne Walling drinks a cup of tap water on a local television report to ensure residents that it is safe.
    July 13, 2015 – After the EPA memo is leaked by the ACLU, a spokesman for the MDEQ tells Michigan Public Radio, “Anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax.” He explains initial testing on 170 homes indicates that the problem is not widespread.
    July 22, 2015 – Governor Snyder’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, emails the Department of Community Health in response to reports by the ACLU and on public radio. “I’m frustrated by the water issue in Flint. I really don’t think people are getting the benefit of the doubt. Now they are concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving from DEQ [MDEQ] samples. Can you take a moment out of your impossible schedule to personally take a look at this?”
    August 17, 2015 – The MDEQ orders Flint to optimize corrosion control treatment in the water supply after state testing from the first six months of 2015 reveals elevated lead levels.
    August 23, 2015 – Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards notifies the MDEQ his team will be conducting a water quality study.
    September 8, 2015 – The Virginia Tech team issues a preliminary report indicating 40% of Flint homes have elevated lead levels.
    September 9, 2015 – The EPA announces it will assist Flint in developing a corrosion control treatment for the water. The next day, MDEQ spokesman, Brad Wurfel tells the Flint Journal the city needs to upgrade its infrastructure, but he also expresses skepticism about the Virginia Tech study.
    September 11, 2015 – After concluding that Flint water is 19 times more corrosive than Detroit water, Virginia Tech recommends the state declare that the water is not safe for drinking or cooking. The river water is corroding old pipes and lead is leaching into the water, according to the study.
    September 24, 2015 – A research team led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician from the Hurley Medical Center, releases a study revealing the number of children with elevated lead levels in their blood nearly doubled after the city switched its water source. In neighborhoods with the most severe contamination problems, testing showed lead levels tripled.
    October 2, 2015 – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reviews the data from the Hurley Medical Center and verifies the findings. The state begins testing drinking water in schools and distributing free water filters.
    October 8, 2015 – The MDEQ announces three Flint schools tested positive for dangerous lead levels in the water. Governor Snyder says the city will discontinue using Flint River water.
    October 15, 2015 – Governor Snyder signs a spending bill appropriating $9.35 million to help Flint reconnect with Detroit for water and provide health services for residents.
    October 16, 2015 – The city switches back to Detroit water. Residents are cautioned that it will take weeks for the system to be properly flushed out and there may be lingering issues. The EPA establishes a Flint Safe Drinking Water Task Force.
    November 4, 2015 – The EPA publishes a final, redacted version of its report on high lead levels in three Flint homes, including Walters’ residence.
    November 13, 2015 – Residents file a federal class action lawsuit claiming 14 state and city officials, including Governor Snyder, knowingly exposed Flint residents to toxic water.
    December 14, 2015 – Flint declares a state of emergency.
    December 29, 2015 – MDEQ Director Dan Wyant resigns after the Flint Water Advisory Task Force concludes the crisis resulted from a failure of state regulators.
    January 5, 2016 – Governor Snyder declares a state of emergency in Genesee County. A spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s Office in Detroit tells CNN that a federal investigation is underway.
    January 12, 2016 – The Michigan National Guard is mobilized to help distribute clean water.
    January 13, 2016 – Governor Snyder announces an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease occurred in the Flint area between June 2014 and November 2015, with 87 cases and 10 deaths. It is unclear, however, whether the spike is linked to the water switch.
    January 14, 2016 – Governor Snyder writes President Barack Obama to request the declaration of an expedited major disaster in Flint, estimating it will cost $55 million to install lead-free pipes throughout the city.
    January 16, 2016 – The president declines to declare a disaster in Flint. Instead, he authorizes $5 million in aid, declaring a state of emergency in the city. The state of emergency allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to step in.
    January 21, 2016 – The EPA criticizes the state’s slow response to the crisis and expresses concerns about the construction of the new pipeline to Lake Huron. The agency issues an emergency administrative order to ensure state regulators are complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act and are being transparent in their response to the crisis. The EPA says it will begin testing the water and publishing the results on a government website. An EPA administrator who was notified in June about Flint’s high lead levels resigns effective February 1.
    January 22, 2016 – The MDEQ claims the EPA has failed to note the state’s multimillion-dollar initiatives to address the crisis, including water testing, distribution of filters and medical care.
    January 27, 2016 – A new federal lawsuit is filed in Detroit against the state, alleging the violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act.
    February 1, 2016 – A spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s Office in Detroit tells the Detroit Free Press that the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service, the inspector general of the EPA and the EPA’s criminal investigation division are assisting in the probe of the Flint water crisis.
    February 3, 2016 – The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform holds a hearing on the Flint water crisis. Governor Snyder is not called to appear.
    February 8, 2016 – Governor Snyder turns down an invitation to testify at another congressional hearing on the crisis, citing a previous commitment to deliver a budget presentation to the state legislature in Michigan. The committee does not have the power of subpoena.
    March 17, 2016 – Governor Snyder testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
    March 31, 2016 – Lawyers, including some with the NAACP, file a class action lawsuit against Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, PC, the state of Michigan, Governor Snyder and others. Plaintiffs seek damages for those affected by the water crisis.
    April 20, 2016 – Criminal charges are filed against government employees Mike Glasgow, Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby. Busch, a district water supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Prysby, a district water engineer, each face six charges. Glasgow, a former laboratory and water quality supervisor who now serves as the city’s utilities administrator, is charged with tampering with evidence, a felony, and willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor. All are on administrative leave.
    April 25, 2016 – Five hundred and fourteen residents and former residents of Flint file a class action lawsuit against the EPA. The plaintiffs allege negligence and demand more than $220 million in damages for the EPA’s role in the water crisis.
    April 25, 2016 – Flint activists announce the formation of a new initiative, the Community Development Organization. Created in response to the water crisis, the non-profit will assist and share information with those effected by the Flint River water switch.
    May 4, 2016 – President Barack Obama visits Flint to hear first-hand how residents have endured the city’s water crisis and to highlight federal assistance to state and local agencies.
    May 4, 2016 – Mike Glasgow reaches a deal with prosecutors contingent on his cooperating as a witness in the investigation. Glasgow gives a plea of no contest to willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor, and the felony charge of tampering with evidence is dismissed. He is released on personal bond following the plea agreement.
    May 9, 2016 – Fired city administrator Natasha Henderson files a federal lawsuit against the city of Flint and Mayor Karen Weaver. Henderson claims that in February 2016, Weaver told former employee Maxine Murray to direct donors to a political campaign fund “Karenabout Flint” instead of to the Safe Water/Safe Homes fund. The Safe Water/Safe Homes fund is specifically for the residents who are suffering due to the water crisis. Mayor Weaver calls the allegations “outrageously false.”
    June 22, 2016 – The Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette files civil lawsuits against two companies for their alleged role in the Flint water crisis. Veolia North America is charged with negligence, fraud, and public nuisance. Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (LAN) is charged with negligence and public nuisance.
    — LAN responds to the lawsuit by stating it was “surprised and disappointed that the state would change direction and wrongfully accuse LAN of acting improperly, and will vigorously defend itself against these unfounded claims.” LAN also says the accusations ignored the assessments of investigators that the City of Flint and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality made the key decisions about water treatment. “LAN was not hired to operate the plant and had no responsibility for water quality,” the statement says, adding that the company “regularly advised that corrosion control should be added and that the system needed to be fully tested before going online.”
    — Veolia also responds with “disappointment in Attorney General Schuette’s inaccurate and unwarranted allegations.” The company says, “the Attorney General has not talked to Veolia about its involvement in Flint, interviewed the company’s technical experts or asked any questions about our one-time, one-month contract with Flint.” The company says its “engagement with the city was wholly unrelated to the current lead issues.”
    July 29, 2016 – Six current and former state workers are charged as the criminal investigation continues. One of the employees, Liane Shekter-Smith, is the former chief of the Michigan Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance. She faces charges of misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty for allegedly misleading the public and concealing evidence of rising lead levels in water.
    October 18, 2016 – The ACLU of Michigan files a class action lawsuit against school districts in Flint for exposing students to tainted water and inadequately testing children for learning disabilities that may have been caused by ingesting lead.
    November 2016 – Dennis Walters, the husband of Flint advocate Lee-Anne Walters, files a complaint claiming that he is being mistreated at work by superiors and colleagues who resent his wife’s activism. Walters, a Navy veteran who works at a police precinct at the Naval Station Norfolk, says that he has been scheduled to work long hours with no breaks and denied opportunities to expand his skill set via training. The family relocated to Virginia because of the water problems in Flint.
    November 10, 2016 – The state of Michigan and city of Flint are ordered to deliver bottled water to homes where the government hasn’t checked to ensure that filters are working properly. In court documents, the leader of a nonprofit group helping residents said that as many as 52% of the water filters installed in a sample of more than 400 homes had problems.
    December 20, 2016 – Four officials — two of Flint’s former emergency managers, who reported directly to the governor, and two water plant officials — are charged with felonies of false pretenses and conspiracy. They are accused of misleading the Michigan Department of Treasury into getting millions in bonds, and then misused the money to finance the construction of a new pipeline and force Flint’s drinking water source to be switched to the Flint River.
    January 24, 2017 – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says that lead levels in the city’s water tested below the federal limit in a recent six-month study.
    January 30, 2017 – A $722 million class action lawsuit is filed against the EPA on behalf of more than 1,700 residents impacted by the water crisis.
    February 17, 2017 – The Michigan Civil Rights Commission issues a report: “The Flint Water Crisis: Systemic Racism Through the Lens of Flint.” According to the 129-page report, “deeply embedded institutional, systemic and historical racism” indirectly contributed to the ill-fated decision to tap the Flint River for drinking water as a cost-saving measure. While the study says the commission did not find specific violations of Michigan’s civil rights laws, the commission says it believes “the current state civil rights laws appear inadequate to address” the “root of this crisis.”

  2. The Flint Water Crisis proves that infrastructure around the US is declining. It also proves that economic dependence on one market can prove disastrous if that industry were to fail. Flint, Michigan was once a vibrant city due to the General Motors plant that owned the town. The city revolved around the plant economically, and it was the lifeblood of this and other Michigan cities. Many residents had jobs at the plant and depended on it for their well-being. People made money, paid taxes, contributed to the economy, and the city flourished. As the industry declined and plants shut down, such as in the 1980s, people were hit hard. As many jobs were lost, families’ income dropped, and the life of the town died, creating a poverty cycle.
    Flint has made a shift since the auto industry left. The once vibrant town is now impoverished. Nearly 100,000 people live in Flint, a city just an hour outside of Detroit, and the city is one of the worst in Michigan. Crime, bad schools, and neglected infrastructure characterize the town. Because the average income of the city is $11,000 less than the US average household income, money for things like new water or sewage systems is little. Cities with below-average incomes have below-average services, and although water is a necessity cities must provide, Flint cannot afford an adequate system.
    Michigan’s state government stepped in to fix the financial crisis of the city, and a health crisis resulted. Flint was millions of dollars in debt, and while being audited by the state, the city decided to get its water from the local Flint River to save money. Water from this river has been contaminated by farm and city waste, though, and it has been exposed to thousands of people, including children.
    This case also proves that infrastructure around the US is declining. Cities that are underfunded remain in a poverty cycle until something stops the trend. Many towns in the US were once vibrant but affected by economic crashes, such as those with the Flint motor plant or other forms of industry, and now they are impoverished. On the other hand, many cities with wealthy residents have high-quality public services because their wealth is put back into the city systems. Their cycle of wealth continues, and only those who can afford the system can enter.
    Suburbs are often characterized by this cycle of wealth. As people move out of cities and industrial centers, they seek communities that are quieter and away from city congestion. They may also grow as economies diversify and people no longer need to depend on one plant for employment. These suburbs then receive more funding from the higher number of residents, and new infrastructure is built. Such is the case in suburbs around the country. Infrastructure in once industrial centers becomes outdated and receives less funding because the residents of the area are in the poverty cycle. Most states are like Michigan in that they see communities in poverty and communities in wealth, and the states need to step in to assist cities when they are unable to stay afloat.
    The issue of infrastructure decline in Flint and around the US are congruent with industry decline, white flight, income inequality, and other social phenomena. In the case of Flint, declaring a state of emergency may be the only way to get help during these health and financial crises, though around the country, incidents similar to these will continue.

    Source:
    http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/18/us/flint-michigan-water-crisis-five-things/index.html

  3. https://www.wired.com/2015/01/time-fix-americas-infrastructure-heres-start/
    Yes, it is not only water crisis. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers the US needs huge investments in all of the major infrastructure from dame and railways to bridges and airports. The society reported that The county gains a D+ for its infrastructure, and it is described as a mess. In 2013 report, the society wrote “The grades in 2013 ranged from a high of B- for solid waste to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees.” Some things got a little improve but not much. “Solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, and bridges all saw incremental improvements, and rail jumped from a C- to a C+. No categories saw a decline in grade this year.”

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/20/465545378/lead-laced-water-in-flint-a-step-by-step-look-at-the-makings-of-a-crisis
    How was the Flint, MI water crisis unfolded?
    June 2012-April 2013: Flint officials _the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department_ thought about cheaper water and maybe the Flint city can save money and that by switching from its current source water. According to City Council meeting minutes, this choice was projected to save the city about $200 million over 25 years.
    April 25, 2014: Flint River water started flowing to the city. When the Flint city, Michigan switched its water supply and the Flint River was used to be the drinking water source of the city, the Flint water crisis took place. Immediately, the inhabitants of city ‘’ a majority-black city where 40 percent of people live in poverty’’ began complaining about the lack quality of the water about the color and smell of the new water. However, for months, officials of the city and state denied that a serious problem existed. According to Mlive the new water was 70% harder than its previous water source. E. coli and total coliform bacteria were discovered in Flint’s water, and that led residents to boil their water. Then, the city solved the problem by increasing the levels of chlorine in the water. Flint was in breach of the Safe Drinking Water Act due to the level of total trihalomethanes, or TTHM in the water. As a result, at government offices the state began buying bottled water for its employees. A city test detected high lead content in the Flint residents’ home water. The EPA reported that ‘’it was notified by the MDEQ the City did not have corrosion control treatment in place at the Flint Water Treatment Plant.’’
    Lead seepage into the drinking water in the city, has caused a huge public health issue and driven President Obama to report a federal state of emergency in the city.
    By the late of 2015, the Flint city changed back to its original water supply; however, that was too late reverse the harm to the supply pipes which have sustained main corrosion, and lead leached into the water. consequently, health problems have appeared. For instance, several cases have high blood lead levels which are harmful especially to children and pregnant women; Furthermore, this problem can be very mischievous and causes “learning disabilities, behavioral problems and mental retardation”.
    References:
    1. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/20/465545378/lead-laced-water-in-flint-a-step-by-step-look-at-the-makings-of-a-crisis
    2. https://www.wired.com/2015/01/time-fix-americas-infrastructure-heres-start/

  4. The pictures above depict events that are currently taking place in Flint, Michigan. Flint, Michigan previously thrived economically thanks to General Motors but with deindustrialization during the 1980s, General Motors closed down plants in Flint leaving many without jobs and destroying Flint’s local economy. Since deindustrialization in the 1980s, many citizens of Flint have moved to states within the sunbelt but those remaining in Flint have a “median household income [of] $24,862” leaving “41.2% of the residents…below the poverty line” (“Flint Water Crisis”).
    Flint, still in an economic low, decided to change water sources to, ultimately, save the city money. In 2014, Flint switched their water source temporarily to the Flint River during the construction of a new water pipeline to Lake Huron. The water in the Flint River is known for its “poor quality”, containing “fecal coliform bacteria, low dissolved oxygen, plant nutrients, oils, and toxic substances” (“Flint Water Crisis”). Before switching to this water source, Flint was ordered to monitor and cleanup polluted locations within the Flint River watershed. Although they attempted cleanup, Flint did not treat the water with an anti-corrosive agent causing the water “to be 19 times more corrosive than water from Detroit” (“Flint Water Crisis”). Upon changing the water source to the Flint River, residence instantaneously noticed contamination in their drinking water and started complaining to local government. These complaints were ignored and denied for many months before local government decided to step in and accept the issue. Since Flint’s government ignored these issues for a time, the pipes supplying the water had been exposed to the corroding water too long to “reverse the damage to the pipes” (Kennedy). Ultimately, Flint decided to revert back to their original water source but, due to the corrosion of the pipes while exposed to water from the Flint River, many still have high levels of led in their water supply. Not only are the citizens unable to access tap water, but they also are still charged by the water companies for water they cannot use.
    Flint’s water crisis is not the only example of infrastructure decay in the United States. This can be seen in California’s “crumbling bridges” to Houston’s “overflowing sewage drains” (Surowiecki). The consequences of infrastructure decay can be as extreme as illness and death to as seemly harmless as slow-moving trains and traffic jams. As infrastructure ages, more time and money need to be put in to maintain its quality but a majority of this responsibility is put in the hands of state’s and/or city’s government and often times the state’s and/or city’s government minimally maintains infrastructure until a crisis occurs. This minimum minded mentality seems like it would save money in the long run but when this is done the infrastructure will ultimately fail and need a full, or close to full, replacement costing the state and/or city an enormous amount of money. To improve the currently failing infrastructure in the United States would cost trillions but this is no longer an issue we can ignore.
    Improving and maintaining infrastructure is an issue that is getting more and more attention in the United States. Decaying infrastructure harms not only citizens’ wellbeing but also businesses’ ability to function at its best capacity. (Word Count 538)
    “Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, 24 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
    Kennedy, Merrit. “Lead-Laced Water In Flint: A Step-By-Step Look At The Makings Of A Crisis.”NPR. NPR, 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
    Surowiecki, James. “Inside America’s Infrastructure Problem.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 08 Apr. 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

  5. On April 25th, 2014, Flint, Michigan switched its water source from Lake Huron fueled Detroit city water to the nearby Flint River. This new source was to serve only in a transitory role until pipes could link Flint to the Karegnondi Water Authority. Problems arose immediately with residents citing foul smell and poor water clarity caused by increased water hardness. By August, E. Coli and other bacteria had been detected and a boil order issued. City officials told residents that chloride levels were increased and that the problem was under control. A little more than a year later a state of emergency is declared by Flint’s mayor due to high levels of lead in tap water. How could something like this happen in the United States? Despite regulatory agencies at city, state, and federal levels, the government had failed to provide clean water to a city with a population of almost 100,000 people. In an attempt to save money, city officials misplanned the water supply switch and hid initial problems until these minor flaws developed into a human health crisis.
    The transition to the KWA water supply was proposed to save $200 million over 25 years in water costs. City officials and regulatory agencies were aware of the high levels of chloride already in the Flint River but decided to not add chemicals that would prevent corrosion of water pipes. This measure was skipped in hopes of cutting costs since it was only a temporary source. As the pipes begin to break down, lead levels rise as detected by city officials and a Virginia Tech Research team. Even after the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality notified the EPA of the lack of corrosion preventive measures, they continued to claim there was nothing to worry about. MDEQ officials remove samples that contained high levels of lead from their study to bring them within federal requirements even as Virginia Tech expands their study into hundreds of homes in Flint which exposes the full scope the contamination. A MDEQ spokesperson rejects the new study in a blatant attempt to cover up the crisis.
    After a state of emergency was declared, city and state officials could no longer hide. Some officials claimed incompetency. In the end, three officials face felony charges and Flint still doesn’t have clean water. As this story develops, Americans have to wonder, is my water safe? Is my government lying to me? Compared to the public services citizens have access to in the United State, tax levels are fairly low. Low tax income compounded with a stale, bipartisan governance, has left our infrastructure decaying and decrepit. Government transparency continues to be an issue as America’s orange faced, twitter addict of a president lies at a frequency that puts dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un to shame. Americans must stay skeptical and keep their water testing kits handy as we head into the post-truth era.

    References :

    Kennedy, Merrit. “Lead-Laced Water In Flint: A Step-By-Step Look At The Makings Of A Crisis.” NPR. NPR, 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 26 Mar. 2017. .
    Oram, PG Mr. Brian. “Drinking Water Issues Corrosive Water.” Drinking Water Corrosion, Corrosivity, Saturation Index, Corrosion Treatment, Corrosion Management, Materials Engineering Training. BF Environmental Consultants Inc, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017. .

  6. Flint water crisis
    Flint, Michigan is a town of nearly 100,000 people less than 75 miles from Detroit. The town fell into serious economic trouble after GM began downsizing its plant there. After the town basically went belly-up the state took over. The state changed water sources from the Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. Due to all of the industrial complexes, landfills, and pesticide/fertilizer run off in the river, the water was severely contaminated.
    After several studies and even a lawsuit, the water was found to be 19 times more corrosive than the water coming from Lake Huron.
    The lead in the water had caused serious health issues, especially in children, such as delayed puberty and behavioral disorders. Fetal growth is stunted when pregnant mothers drink this toxic water. Anyone who drinks this water is at risk for heart, kidney, and other serious issues.
    Fecal bacterium and E. coli are found in the water and the whole town must boil all its water.
    The EPA found that the dark water as seen in the pictures above gave children rashes and other illnesses. Even after the city council voting to switch back to Lake water, the vote was overruled by the state-appointed city manager because of the cost even though the lead levels were nearly high enough to be considered hazardous waste. You can see from the picture that the Detroit water is so much cleaner, even though many officials claimed it was not.
    In 2015 the city finally switched back to water from Lake Huron, but too much damage was already done. Residents filed a lawsuit against the officials who refused to make the switch sooner even though they were aware of the dangerous lead levels.
    A lot of drama, over 10 more lawsuits/ investigations, and government things happen after that, but just this month the EPA awarded Flint with 100 Million dollars to work on their water issues.
    While 100 million is great, I believe it’s too much too late. This crisis will permanently affect generations of Flint residents. Saving a city’s economy should never be more important than the health of its community, especially children. I know hindsight is 20/20 and I have never had to make decisions like the ones made for Flint, but when did America become a third world country that puts a quick fix money saver over the value of clean water? The kind of manipulative negligence that occurred is like something out of Rwanda or something. It is unbelievable that people right here in America would have to deal with this. In other countries, limited access to clean water is caused by war, disease, lack of infrastructure, etc. but in America it’s caused by bureaucracy and penny-pinching.
    Source:
    CNN Flint Water Crisis: Fast Facts

  7. The Flint water crisis is characterized by outraged citizens and orange and brown tinted water. The water source for Flint had been saturated with lead and other chemicals due to insufficient water treatment. The Flint, Michigan water crisis set in in early 2014. That is almost three years ago. And yet the residents of Flint still do not have drinkable water. City officials as well as state officials apologized and promised to fix the issues but little was done. It eventually led to the resignation of a few officials. But that is where the problem only begins. The resignation of a select few does not fix the current issues with the pipes, water toxicity, or future health problems to those who had consumed the tainted water. It also does not begin to fix or cover the much deeper infrastructure issues within the United States. There are other cities dealing with lower level issues of the same nature. This tainted water also taints the reputation of a supposedly first world nation like United States, where it assumed that those who live here and pay taxes here will have access to clean and safe water. Currently the pipes and water ways in Flint are set to be repaired in selected areas by 2019. But this is not only inconvenience but highlights a larger issue. This issue is that there is no obvious system to effectively replenish and replace something that provides something so essential. It also highlights the issues that come when city and public officials misplace and misuse taxes and funds and fail to serve and protect those who they represent and work for. This was highlighted when in 2015 Flint city officials had the offer to reroute the water source back from Lake Huron and declined due to fears that this would cost the city more. And was highlighted once more later in 2015 when with more public outrage the city council voted to reconnect with Detroit city water but this was overruled. This political situation is a huge infrastructure issue in itself. There should be more levels and more protection for residents not only from a failing infrastructure but from a failing city government. Eventually the governor of Michigan had to declare a state of emergency for flint and all of Genesee County. But this step took long enough to take. The people of Flint have already suffered health and emotional damages. This issue- being very public- is a perfect example of how crucial and critical proper infrastructure is to a society and group of people. The fact that recently there has been discussion of federal funding to help continue to repair the infrastructure of Flint is quite telling. There should be funding to help repair the situation public officials helped cause because no matter the level the government is in place to protect and serve and that includes protection from a crumbling and toxic infrastructure. This is problem that has multiple layers, multiple causes, and multiple responsible parties. But what this situation does highlight is the importance of paying attention to the infrastructure and maintenance of infrastructures in our towns, in the towns around us, and across the United States.

  8. Flint water crisis is a topic that was going on for almost a century now, but it got recognition on the April 25th 2014 after the city left Detroit’s water system and join with Karegnondi Water Authority, but rather than using the water from Lake Huron, officials decided in private in temporary to use the water from Flint River until the pipeline with Karegnondi was put in place, this was made to cut cost of water supply. In January 2016, a state of emergency was declared after citizens were exposed to high level of lead from using water from Flint River water system, that left 10 people dead. This caused a crisis in water for the city, the home of General Motors, a giant in the automobile industry focused in Flint, Michigan. However, the problem with the Flint’s polluted water dates back for almost a century. Its history of environmental disaster and water treatments was not followed from the city officials, and they did not put much effort in solving it. Since the water was acidic it corroded the old lead pipes causing widespread poisoning. Lead poisoning presents a major health problem, to which during these 2 years of water system switch all the residents were affected. To this day aid organizations are providing residents with bottled water. Flint River water was unable to be treated, this is due to high level of industrial pollution that came from GM and from agricultural and human waste making it unsafe to drink. In 1960’s Michigan Water Resource Commission told the Flint to lower the level of pollution in the river, primarily caused from factories, paper, meatpacking industries and city’s wastewater treatment plant. But the change to Detroit water system, did not fix the problem with Flint River, the river remained polluted from all the waste there. So, the problem with pollution was not present only in 2014. But political negligence made the problem worse. Health problems from this polluted water are enormous. The lead that affected almost 9000 children in this city can have a permanent brain damage. Another effect of lead in children is impaired cognition, behavioral disorders, hearing problems and delayed puberty. Whereas in pregnant women, lead causes reduction in fetal growth and in everyone else lead can affect nerves, kidneys, and the heart.
    Thus, the crisis has been going on for a long time now. The river was polluted in accident and in purpose several times in the past, making it unsafe to drink and increasing the level of bacteria in the water. The industrial pollution only worsened the situation. Industrial plants left from GM contain high levels of arsenic, mercury, and lead which if have made their way to the river can cause disastrous health problems from lead to cancer. Flint, from a giant in the automobile industry has become one of the poorest cities in the US, and now a city that no one wants to live in. Values of homes have decreased to zero. An action that was meant as a way to cut costs in the city’s debt saw a tragic end to the lives of the residents in the city of Flint, Michigan.

    http://www.theverge.com/2016/2/26/11117022/flint-michigan-water-crisis-lead-pollution-history
    http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/

  9. The Flint water crisis began in 2014, when the City of Flint switched from supplying its water from Karegnondi Water Authority, which got their water from Lake Huron, to collecting water from the Flint River. Infrastructure from the early 1900s were used to transport water to Flint. The issue was that the old system was fitted with cast iron water mains that had leached lead into the water supply. This issue has occurred in the past but the lead levels were at an acceptable level at the time due to water treatment. Without the water being properly treated, the lead levels in the supply reached an unsafe level which led to an emergency. Attempts to switch the water supply back to Lake Huron have failed due to opposition from city officials.
    This issue it just the spotlight of a broader situation going on in the United States. Infrastructure around the country is decaying and failing to meet the needs of today’s population. Consequently, the Northeast region of the United States is dubbed the “Rust Belt”, which got its name from the fact much of its infrastructure is economic decline and urban decay from the loss of population and diminishing tax base along with it. Much of the large Industrial enterprises (e.g. General Motors) in the United States once had their operations in the northeast region. They were the among the largest contributors in state and city economies. But in the past three decades, trade policies such as NAFTA and other free trade agreements allowed these companies outsourced their labor to developing countries which provided cheap labor. The lack of employment opportunities forced much of the northeast population to migrate either towards the southern or western regions of the country, ultimately leading to the decline in the population of the Rust Belt. At the same time, much of the middle class resides outside these urban areas into suburbia.
    One of the ongoing debates in US politics is how to address the issues in infrastructure decay. One solution is urban redevelopment, which is similar to the concept of urban renewal, without the negative connotation associated with the history of urban renewal. Rather than focusing on blighted buildings, which can be destructive and cause displacement among marginalized communities, urban redevelopment aims to focus on derelict brownfields and then filled in with commercial or residential commodities. Redevelopment takes place on a large scale, and implements non-intrusive methods of subsidizing private development. The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh is notable for regulating the process of redevelopment in the city of Pittsburgh, PA. Their efforts have led to the increase of Pttisburgh’s tax base, and the growing number of jobs in the city through tax increment financing of blighted districts (TIF Districts) and other public investments.
    When concerning the city of Flint, Michigan, it would take an effort as large as an institution that was capable of investing its resources into the revitalization of the water supply whether it be from the public or the private sector.

    “URA – Urban Redevelopment Authority Of Pittsburgh.” URA | The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh. N.p., n.d. Web. Mar. 2017.

    “Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. Mar. 2017. .

  10. the flint water crisis is a major problem in flint Michigan and has been ever since they moved water sources from the Detroit river to their own nearby flint river. this switch proved to be detrimental because of how poisonous the water has become. the water coming from the flint river is much more corrosive than that of the Detroit river. this has caused the pipes that are in the ground transporting this water to households and businesses to become undrinkable and toxic from all the lead its producing. the water is not even clear anymore its giving off a more orange or brownish foggy color. and is really quit disturbing if you ask me. the people in flint are having to buy gallons of water just for daily use and basic things like cooking and taking showers. the thing is all of this could of been avoided because they knew the water in the flint river was historically bad. CNN states that “in 2001 the sate ordered the monitoring and clean up of 134 polluted sites within the flint river and watershed”. CNN also states that the department of Environmental Quality was not treating the flint river with anti-corrosive agents which is in violation of federal law. which caused the river water to be 19 times more corrosive than the Detroit river water. the lead for service lines across flint Michigan to erode and leach into the water system. this is not only a problem in flint though all across America we have a whole bunch of old infrastructure. that needs to be re done to try to help prevent things like this from happening. there is no reason flint Michigan should be without clean water. if we do not get ahead of this now we may find ourselves looking at more cases like this one. cutting corners is not going to fix anything its just going to make this much worse. why are all these people still having to pay their water bills while they continue to not fix the pipe or find an actual viable option for treating the water for the citizens that call flint Michigan home.

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/

  11. Flint, Michigan may be the saddest city in America. In a city of almost 100,000, over 40% of Flint residents live under the poverty line. Once upon a time, Flint was home to the nation’s largest General Motors plant but that is no more. In a town with an incredible deficit, the decision was made in 2014 to switch municipal water sources from Lake Huron to the unreliably foul Flint River as a means of cutting down on spending. Since then, the city has experienced a water crisis that, after years of country-wide awareness and protesting, still seems to be far from a solution. When the city officials switched their primary water supply to the Flint River, they were switching to a water supply that was 19 times more corrosive than the water they were previously using. In direct violation of federal law, the state Department of Environmental Quality completely disregarded treating the water with an anti-corrosive agent and, subsequently, the water began to corrode the aging waterline infrastructure which led to lead and iron making its way into the city’s tap water. For two years, the citizens of Flint were told that they were in no danger and that everything about the water was perfectly safe for consumption. Millions of people across the United States who live in aging cities are also being told the same thing. However, how long can that actually be true? There are countless cities across the country that are still operating their water infrastructure off lead pipes that were installed 100 or more years ago. Even if they are following every federal guideline and treating the water properly before letting it corrode the pipes, how much longer is just doing the bare minimum amount of effort to keep the existing infrastructure in place going to be enough? Cities in North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and even Washington DC have all reported levels of lead existing in their water even before the incident in Flint became front and center. Outdated infrastructure is showing its age across the country and a major overall and update might be the most effective solution. Lead pipes were very prominent as cities were beginning to install water mains in the late 19th and early 20th centuries meaning any city that came to prominence during that time period of industrialization probably has lead in their pipes. The American Water Association claims there are around 6.5 million lead pipes in use in the United States. In Philadelphia, there could be as many as 50,000 lead service lines running throughout the city. While it would be a massive and expensive project to update all the current lead-lined pipes in the aging cities of the U.S., the urban landscape of the country almost demands it. As cities decline or their circumstances change, decisions like those made in Flint to cut costs might be made more and more and it’s the citizens living in these urban environments that are going to continue to suffer.
    Sources:
    Curran, Rob. Flint’s Water Crisis Should Raise Alarm’s for America’s Aging Cities. http://fortune.com/2016/01/25/flint-water-crisis-america-aging-cities-lead-pipes/
    CNN. Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts. http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/

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