The toxic water problem in Flint, Michigan, gained huge media attention a few years ago when it was first discovered. Then, as it goes with any crisis, the general public became less and less concerned until we all forgot about it. The problem continued to go under the radar and even now is still somewhat unresolved.
The water is still not safe to drink, and several thousand children have been diagnosed with lead poisoning. Bottled water is still being distributed in the city of Flint,which is obviously not cost effective, and yet the public has forgotten all about it.
The good news is some progress has been made. On Jan. 24, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality reported that the lead levels in the city’s water tested below federal levels. Several city officials who were involved in allowing this crisis have been charged with crimes. Among the charges were conspiracy, misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.
However, Flint’s lead pipes will have to be completely replaced now, and who knows how long that could take. One key point to take away from all of this is that taking risks such as poisoning a city’s water supply should not be taken simply to cut costs. Even in a town where the budget is stretched thin, water is so valuable in the world today that none can be spared.
How quickly would this problem have been solved if it had taken place in some affluent neighborhood in Long Island, for example? Accusations of systematic racism have even been leveled by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, as Flint’s population is 56.6 percent African-American. The argument in a crisis such as this is that it would not have occurred in a majority white area.
The Flint water crisis is a symptom of a larger problem: how human beings, Americans in particular, are taking the little clean water left on the planet for granted.
A report in BBC news said half the world’s population will be living in an area of high water stress and we’re still looking to cut costs by possibly poisoning the water supply of an entire town. Slovenia has realized the possible water shortage that may come in future decades and made access to clean water a constitutional right.
Of course, Europe is decades ahead of the U.S. in terms of environmental policy. I would expect a similar law to grace the United States Constitution at some point in the future, hopefully before it’s too late.
Water has been one of President Trump’s less covered topics, but if I had to guess how concerned he is with clean water, I would guess very little. Trump recently signed an executive order to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water policy. The order will have the EPA and other departments review their water regulations to ensure economic growth.
Regulations from the Clean Water Act of 1970 give the federal government control over main bodies of water. Since the beginning of his campaign, Trump has advocated for less government regulation. He plans to defund the EPA and reverse most of their regulations.
Water is becoming more valuable by the day. Millions die every year as a result of clean water shortages. Trump and other world leaders who have not yet begun thinking about this issue will need to very soon to avoid disaster. California is already experiencing major droughts almost every year. Eventually, a cheap, cost-effective way to purify water that it is safe for drinking is going to be necessary.
Elliot Weld can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org