U.S. should learn from mistakes in Flint, Mich.

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

The citizens of Flint, Mich. continue to live without a clean water supply more than a thousand days after the initial lead poisoning crisis.

Flint’s City Council was given until Oct. 23 to decide on a long term water supply, but the council asked for more time; Nov. 20 is the new deadline for the people of Flint, and a decision cannot wait any longer.

The rest of the country should learn from the mistakes of Michigan’s past as research continues to come to light, and hopefully the country can also learn from the correct decisions for Michigan’s future, which need to happen now.

Federal Judge David Lawson set the hearing for a week after the initiation of five new council members. Before asking for more time, the city council had come to an impasse between a 30-year contract with the city of Detroit’s Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) and a raw water treatment by the Karegnondi Water Authority. Lawson mentioned in his ruling that renovations to current water plants had not been made, meaning raw water treatment would not be adequate at this time.

The decision to continue using the GLWA is backed by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. Without a decision from the city council, the state will decide for Flint.

The citizens of Flint seem to have already commented on what they want in the future by electing five new council members in the election following the extension. This change in the council could allow for a majority vote, rather than the previous stalemate.

The state of Michigan took control of Flint’s financial duties after the city was projected to have a $25 million deficit, as reported by CNN. Flint began its water crisis in 2014, when a state ruling switched the city from Detroit’s water sources to the Flint River to save money. Due to the river not being treated for pipe corrosion, toxic lead polluted the water supply, hurting all who used the water on a daily basis. It was not until 2015 that the governor chose to stop using Flint River water, following several investigations and short term recalls.

According to a new study from the University of Kansas, the lead contamination has led to lower fertility rates and higher death infant rates, with a 12 percent decrease in fertility and a rise in fetal death by 58 percent. This research directly contradicts the findings of the Department of Health and Human Services in July 2015. The Kansas researchers also discovered that residents began Googling the effects of lead poisoning only after research was released on Flint’s water supply in 2015.

Research is not always timely, as is seen by the three-year gap between the water crisis and credible research on the effects of lead poisoning. If the city of Flint continues to wait until research is funded and published on their problems, there is an incredible chance that too much damage will have been done on too many generations of Flint residents.

It is too late to reverse the damage that has been done to those who suffered through the initial Flint crisis, but there is hope in strong choices being made for the future. On Nov. 20 a choice will be made, either by the state or by the city council, and hopefully that decision will allow for immediate action for the people of Flint, Mich.