Water Contamination in Flint, Michigan-KU Conversation 4

By: Courtney Aaron

Hello KU students and welcome to our fourth posting of KU Conversations! Our topic for this week is the lead water contamination crisis happening in Flint, Michigan. Remember some of our sources may require a current KU student login. To start the conversation off we have an article from The Guardian giving a brief overview about the water contamination situation. The article highlights what events led to the contamination of the water.
Currently there are a lot of major concerns about the water contamination. The first is how the citizens of Flint can avoid further exposure to the lead contaminated water. Michigan’s government has created an entire website dedicated to educating the people on how to avoid further exposure and where to get help. The website provides translations of help/advice pages in multiple languages including Spanish, Arabic, and even ASL (American Sign Language) videos.

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United States Environmental Protection Agency Flag- Image provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency

There is also a news archive and media center to keep up to date with new information about the situation as well as informative advice. They’ve provided maps on where to find safe water and water filters as well as updates on new information like how people can bathe in the water but not drink it. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is also providing help. The EPA created an advice page informing citizens on what they can and can’t use the contaminated water for, how to check if filters are working properly, how to check whether or not their water lines are made of lead material, and other helpful advice tips. They also provided a fact sheet that provides other information like how to clean their filters or additional information on orthophosphates.

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Downtown Flint Michigan Skyline along the Flint River (2006)- Photograph provided by Connor Coyne

For those of you who are interested in the science side of this issue we found a couple of sources you may be interested in. First we have a link to Oxford Reference incase you need to look up some terms. We found a fascinating research article (may require login) that is a recent spatial analysis to identify which neighborhoods in Flint, Michigan are more subjected to higher lead exposure after the switch in water sources occurred. This article is from CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) database in EBSCO Host. The article has a detailed explanation about how the research was conducted and what methods were used during the research. We also found a great article that discusses corrosive water from a water research website. It shows what corrosive water can do to pipes, what things can make water more or less corrosive, and a lot of other information on corrosion. There is also a second source from that website that talks about how you can test for lead in water, multiple treatment options if there is lead, and other related information.

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Governor Rick Snyder- Image from Office of Governor Rick Snyder

We also kept track of the political side of this issue starting with the White House Press (retrieved by ProQuest and may require login) release from January that the president signed Michigan’s emergency declaration. There was also another article (also ProQuest and require login) written by Senator Barbara Boxer in late January. It was about a new “Bipartisan Sportsmen Act” that contains an amendment that interferes with the Clean Water Acts ability to protect drinking water from pesticides. The debate over how much aid Flint should get is still currently raging between the republicans and democrats involved. There was an announcement (Pro Quest may require login) that members of Congress will be going to Flint, Michigan on March 4th to hold a “Speak Out” event. The purpose of the event is for citizens to tell members of Congress about the change in their lives due to the contamination. Our last resource if from Governor Rick Snyder’s website announcing that the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan will help deliver nutritious foods to Flint, Michigan. The food bank will deliver multiple trucks of food possibly through out the rest of the year.

Some of you may be wondering what is the best way to solve the water crisis. Currently, Flint Michigan’s water source has been switched back to Lake Huron through Detroit. However, lead is still present in the drinking water since the lead pipes are still corroded from the Flint River water. The two main solutions include coating the lead pipes with phosphates and replacing the lead lines entirely. This New York Times article explains how both processes would work and the reasons as to why both solutions will be difficult to do.

Recently there has been even more tension in Flint, Michigan due to a new announcement from Governor Rick Snyder. In this article from Money magazine, he and other politicians asked taxpayers to also pay for legal fees concerning the crisis. There is debate over whether the money will truly be used for paying the lawyers to process data about the situation or if Snyder plans to use the money on defense lawyers for him.

Is there anything else you think could be done to help Flint’s citizens? Which solution method do you think the city should use? Post your ideas and thoughts in the comments section either here or on the KU Conversations Facebook post!

3 Responses to “Water Contamination in Flint, Michigan-KU Conversation 4”


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