January 27, 2016

By Kathleen Mannard

Natural crises happen every day and bring about devastating damage and causalities. Fortunately, geographic areas prone to natural crises take precaution measures to ensure the least amount of damage and high rates of survival. However, man-made crises not only threaten the sustainability of the environment and livelihoods, but they are also entirely avoidable. This week, the city of Flint in Michigan declared a state of emergency because of citizens’ high exposure rate to lead, directly caused by government interference of Detroit’s water system.
In 2014, Detroit’s water utility changed its water supply from Lake Huron to Flint River. The city of Flint began using Flint River as its water source to save money while the new pipeline was constructed. Although government officials ensured the safety of drinking the water, complaints amassed of the water’s smell and its drinkers’ bodily symptoms. The past year consisted of at least 8,657 children who are now at risk of cognitive damage after being exposed to high levels of lead. Governor Snyder’s declaration for relief efforts of $96 million was denied because the Flint crisis is a man-made disaster. Because of financial decisions and denial of the issue, the city of Flint, already poverty stricken, now faces grave financial burdens of reconstructing the water systems and increased severe medical diagnoses.
Justice should be served for the residents of Flint who were ensured of the safety of their water supply by their state government and for the children who will be diagnosed with cognitive disabilities. The man-made Flint crisis was unnecessarily prolonged after the initial complaints of residents, and it should have been prevented altogether. Protection of the environment includes the cleanliness of the water distributed to citizens. It is a fundamental justice for humans to receive clean water and, as the distributor of water, state and federal governments need to prioritize the rights of citizens and their environment.