"Cramer, who was released this week, knew something was wrong. When he called home to speak to his family, his mother told him the water wasn’t OK. She called the jail repeatedly and was told the facility was using a filtration system.
Even pregnant women in the jail were consuming the lead-tainted water, according to the report. When the switch was made last week, just four bottles of water were provided to each inmate per day—both for drinking and for brushing their teeth."
Al-Jazeera America: Flint’s water crisis is a human rights violation
"This emergency goes beyond simply a public health problem. (Lead is a potent neurotoxin, which can cause irreversible brain damage in children.) It is something much worse: a human rights abuse in an American city. In 2010, the United Nations declared that “ … clean drinking water … [is] essential to the realization of all human rights.” Flint’s contaminated water will prevent children from realizing their human right to health, enumerated in Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Had these basic human rights factored into the decision to switch Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River, Flint’s children might never have been exposed to tainted water. What’s worse, new reports say Snyder’s office found out about the contaminated water and did nothing. For as little as $100 per day the state of Michigan could have treated the water and prevented the life-long suffering that the children of Flint are now going to experience, but instead it prioritized fiscal savings over the health and human rights of children."
The Nation: Outcry Over the Austerity Crisis in Flint Grows
“In what’s become a huge government scandal, garnering headlines across the country and around the world, Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city temporarily switched its supply source in 2014 from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to more corrosive and polluted Flint River water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant,” explained the Detroit Free Press on Saturday. “The switch was made as a cost-cutting move while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The state Department of Environmental Quality has acknowledged a mistake in failing to require the addition of needed corrosion-control chemicals to the water. That caused lead, which causes brain damage and other health problems in children, to leach into the water from pipes and fixtures...But, make no mistake, there is a duty to hold Governor Snyder to account for choosing austerity over humanity."
"The stage was set on March 16, 2011, when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed Public Act 4. This measure broadened an earlier law that provided an "emergency financial manager" for financially distressed cities and school districts. Under the new law, "emergency financial managers" became "emergency managers" with the power to cancel or renegotiate city contracts, liquidate assets, suspend local government, unilaterally draft policy, and even disincorporate. (It is worth noting that Michigan emergency managers have done all of these things except disincorporate, which was entertained by a manager in the city of Pontiac.)
The need for an emergency manager was determined by a series of highly subjective criteria. Almost every city that got one was a poor, African-American-majority city devastated by a shrinking industrial sector: Flint, Pontiac, Detroit, Highland Park, Benton Harbor, and so on."
But for those who know little about what’s happening in Flint, it might seem like Hillary came in on a shiny white horse to save the day. That is far from the case.
Long before it was a national news story, residents in Flint were organizing and raising hell about their contaminated water.* The Flint water crisis has been occurring since April 2014, when Flint cut their water supply from Detroit in an attempt to save money. Nayyirah Shariff, an organizer with the Flint Democracy Defense League, explained on Democracy Now how the water crisis was a human-made disaster thanks to capitalism and austerity:
"[Michigan Gov. Rick] Snyder has been trampling our democracy for years, really ever since he’s been in office, and specifically since Flint has had an emergency manager in December 2011. And our City Council wanted to go back to Detroit, and our emergency manager, Jerry Ambrose, said it was inconceivable because it was going to cost too much money. And the culture of the emergency manager is money trumps everything. It’s more important than people’s lives."
*Emphasis from USHRN
"Even residents who aren’t behind, though, are frustrated that they’re still being billed for water they can’t even drink. “The city is still billing residents for the contaminated water being pumped to their homes and expecting immediate payment,” Sylvia Orduno of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization explained in an email to ThinkProgress.
And the amounts demanded are quite high. In 2014, the Flint Journal reported that the average water and sewer bill in Flint was $140 a month. For anyone of limited means, that couldn’t come at a harder time. “The pace at which help is getting to residents is causing them further health consequences, suffering, and debt,” Orduno said. “Bottled water is an expensive alternative and requires constant, large supplies to meet the need.”
Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society: The #FlintWaterCrisis is Not just a Black Issue it is also an Indigenous Issue
"I am outraged because the people of Flint don’t have access to a basic human right: clean water. In spite of it all, I am also more in love with humanity because people on the ground are helping out where their state has failed them. I want to repeat: Governor Rick Snyder should face criminal prosecution. Flint is a majority Black city and the lack of clean water is a blatant form of environmental racism. Period.
However, two perspectives that I have seen in my social media disturb me. First, Native folks passively dismissing the #FlintWaterCrisis by saying things that amount to: “Well, Native people have dealt with the lack of water rights and the poisoning of our land for decades, so this is not new.” For instance, the Navajo Nation in the Southwest of Turtle Island has its own water crisis, with 40% lacking access to clean, running water. The lack of clean water goes back to World War II, when the U.S. engaged in practice bombings near Navajo Land. This past summer, the Gold King Mine released some 3 million gallons of contaminated water into a river that led to three states, including New Mexico, in which a part of the Navajo Nation resides.Therefore, I can understand why some Native people would argue that the issues facing Black residents in Flint are not new, and that everyone should pay closer attention to Native water issues on Native land. I am equally disturbed by how Black folks continue participating in the discourses of settler colonialism by rarely, if ever, acknowledging that Flint (and other places) is still Indigenous land, essentially stating, “this issue is anti-black because white folks like Governor Snyder is racist.” Both points are true, but the framing is unnecessarily limiting."
In interviews with Fusion, a half dozen undocumented people said that either they’ve been turned away from free water or are worried that they’ll be deported if they try to get help. Some who don’t speak English only learned about the problems with the water in the last few days, and have been drinking contaminated tap water for months.
Officials at some fire stations—where the National Guard is distributing free bottled water and filters—have asked residents for a form of identification. Immigrants in Michigan without legal status are unable to receive drivers licenses or state IDs.
“I went to ask for water from the fire station, and they asked for my social security number, so I left,” said Estella Arias, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. “I feel bad that I can’t get the help… I don’t want to expose my kids to lead.”
There’s also a lack of awareness about the water problem to begin with. Most Flint residents have known not to drink the tap water for months, at least since state officials acknowledged the elevated lead levels in October. But with no local Spanish-language radio station or TV channel, some undocumented people who don’t speak much English simply don’t know about what’s going on.
Maria, another undocumented immigrant who asked not to use her last name, said she only heard about the water problem three days ago, and had been drinking tap water regularly until then. She’s developed a bad rash on her legs, and thinks it’s from the water. Like most undocumented, though, she doesn’t have any health insurance.
TheConversation.Com: Piping as poison: the Flint water crisis and America’s toxic infrastructure
Chicago Tribune: Costly repairs to water heaters, pipes may fall to Flint homeowners
New York Times: A Question of Environmental Racism in Flint
American Human Rights Council Statement: The Flint and Detroit water crises are a violation of Michigan citizens’ human right to water
Michigan Radio: [Timeline] Here's how the Flint water crisis unfolded
AJ+ Video: "Could America's Water Turn Toxic?"
- Derrick Z. Jackson, Flint evokes the public health racism of years past, Boston Globe (Jan. 30, 2016), https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/01/29/flint-evokes-public-healt...
- Gary Ridley, Flint Restarts Water Shutoff Notices After Brief Holiday Reprieve, MLive (Jan. 15, 2016), www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2016/01/city_to_restart_water_shutoff...
- Dylan Sevett, U.S. Uncut, People Are Dying in Flint and All Signs Point to the Water, (Jan. 14, 2016), http://usuncut.com/class-war/people-are-dying-in-flint-all-sings-point-t...
- Arthur Delaney and Philip Lewis, How the Federal Government Botched Flint’s Water Crisis, HUFFPOST (Jan. 12, 2016), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/flint-lead-water-epa_us_569522a8e4b0...
- Sarah Hulett, National Public Radio, High Lead Levels in Michigan Kids After City Switches Water Source (Oct. 5, 2015), http://www.npr.org/2015/09/29/444497051/high-lead-levels-in-michigan-kid.... For official Michigan state data on the lead poisoning, see Michigan State Government, Taking Action on Flint Water, http://www.michigan.gov/flintwater.
- Michigan State Governor’s Office, Press Release, Gov. Snyder declares emergency for Genesee County, (Jan. 5, 2016), http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277-57577_57657-372653--,00.html.