Flint, Michigan River Water Crisis

free essayThe Flint water crisis began on April 25, 2014, when the city of Flint in Michigan switched it water supply system from Detroit’s water system to the system from the Flint River. However, the Flint River was contaminated with lead hence creating a public hazard, especially to those who drank water directly from the taps. This contamination was due to the use of old lead pipes that caused elevated levels of the heavy metal in the drinking water. Consequently, according to Young (2013), more than twelve thousand children were exposed to the drinking of water that had high levels of lead metal, and they experienced a range of serious problems such as skin rashes and even developmental problems that were incurable and even resulted in death. Therefore, the state government, the federal government, and the local leaders were responsible for this disaster. With that said, there were various legal systems, policies and federal statutes that were not followed to the letter.

According to Collin (2006), the first legal system is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the responsibility of which is to ensure that citizens consume safe water. For that reason, the Environmental Protection Agency warned the Flint government about the unfolding toxic water crisis but was faced with resistance of the Michigan authorities; precisely a fiery Congress neglected this warning However, the state Congress had enacted the Safe Drinking Act the main aim of which is to ensure that the general public health standards for clean and drinking water supply are maintained (Zimmerman, 2016). This act regulates contaminants in the public drinking water system and gives the Environmental Protection Agency the obligation of setting national limits for toxic substances. Therefore, it is the responsibility of a particular state to enforce the recommendations provided by EPA and make sure that certain guidelines and regulations are meant. These rules and directives include supplying people with drinking water that follows the EPA standards, and it is the responsibility of the state to enforce laws and agreements to provide safe drinking water to its citizens. Precisely, in Michigan, the enforcement of the acts falls on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

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Furthermore, this bill’s authority makes sure that the Environmental Protection Agency enacts copper and lead rule that ensures the public good is taken care of by minimizing those metals’ amounts in drinking water, mainly by reducing the level the corrosiveness of water pipes (Carson, Darling, & Darling 2002). Copper and lead are the most common metals that are found in the municipally supplied drinking water due to corrosion of lead and copper pipes that are used to deliver the water. Thus, lead pipes and plumbing fixture are illegal according to the Safe Drinking Water Act (International Water Association, 2006). However, many old lead water pipes service lines are still being used today. More so, this rule makes sure there is regular monitoring, reporting, and treatment by the water suppliers to ensure that lead and copper levels are below a certain point. With such acts, rules and legal bodies in the United States of America, it means that Michigan failed in fulfilling its tasks that led to Flint’s water crisis. These failure is that Flint was under the rule of a state-appointed emergency manager before, during and after the crisis that clearly showed that the managers were responsible for monitoring, treating and even reporting any unfamiliar incidences in the water did not accomplish their tasks. The Department of Environmental Quality asked the city to carry out two rounds of testing of water for lead and copper, which was inappropriate as such an order was only appropriate for water systems that served less than 50,000 people, while Flint had a population of about 100,000 people. With such a population, the best course of action as stated by the federal laws was to carry out a corrosion control treatment that could be possible by adding phosphates to the water systems. Hence, the responsibility for this failure lies solely on the Department of Environmental Quality.

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According to the federal laws, not only the Department of Environmental Quality was wrong, but also the regulatory body of EPA was also to blame. The Environmental Protection Agency should have made sure that the corrosion control measure was taken as soon as the crisis was stated, but it did not. Moreover, this federal agency had the power to take authority from the Department of Environmental Quality to assure that the health of the citizens is maintained. The law clearly states that EPA may review all the treatment decision taken by cities and can even override them if the circumstances are not suitable for the public health safety (Collin, 2006).

More so, the city of Flint improperly monitored the water for copper and lead levels. That meant that the city officials did not know the location of the old lead pipe lines in the water supply system. In this regard, independent researchers estimated that there were more than 15,000 lead lines that were providing water to Flint. Therefore, the city failed to ensure that the high-risk lead pipes were not tested but instead, they instructed the residents to flush the pipes before the sampling began. Additionally, the authorities provided the sample bottles filled with the water with artificially lowered lead levels, and this evidenced that they did not collect the right number of samples. Consequently, the federal laws require that all water administrators notify the state regulator and get the go ahead before changing the water source that would increase the levels of lead corrosion. Flint’s Department of Environmental Quality apparently did not look for advice from the Environmental Protection Agency before switching the water supply from Detroit to the Flint River. As a result, there are penalty provisions for the violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and even the citizens are allowed to place lawsuits in the name of the authority tampering with their health. These penalties were made possible by the United States Department of Justice and the Michigan Attorney General and, as a result, citizens had already filed multiple lawsuits against the city’s manager for harming their health and violating their civil rights (Carter, 2006).

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With that said, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) gave orders to EPA to regulate contaminants that are found in the water supply (Pontius, 2003). SDWA provides regulations that establish the collaboration of the public water systems and the state agencies to make sure that the primary water system provides safe and clean water to the residents. This policy is carried out in forty-nine states including Michigan. Therefore, Michigan has the obligations of administering SDWA programs, providing technical assistance to water systems and making sure that the latter comply with the federal policy. Additionally, section 1414 makes sure that when EPA finds out that the water supply does not comply with this regulation, it must immediately notify the state about the problem and provide assistance to the public water supply. Under SDWA’s emergency policy section 1431, EPA may take the administrator action and protect the human health after discovering that the contaminant in the water system poses danger to the public, and the given state does not respond to the risk in thirty days. However, the Environmental Protection Agency gave out the emergency order to the Flint water crisis but faced a lot of resistance from the self-elected managers. Therefore, the water in Flint was no safe to drink, and the state officials were violating the federal policy of SDWA (Carter, 2006). In so doing, the authority was exposing its citizens to lead toxins, which were powerful and had devastating effects on children and general public. More so, every citizen in the United States of America deserves and expects safe drinking water, regardless of his/her economic status, race, or even the city he/she lives in. Hence, the residents of Flint were unfairly denied their democratic right to elect their authority in the name of saving money for the sacrifice of the public’s health. Flint community deserved accountability, transparency, justice, and clean and safe water to drink (Carter, 2006).

The Environmental Protection Agency is also tasked with regulating the amount of lead in drinking water that involves the use of corrosion control technique to reduce the levels of the lead in the water. Additionally, in agreement with Collin (2006), if 10% of tap water sample exceeds the set level of contaminants, the public water supply authorities have violated the rules and hence it is important to notify the Environmental Protection Agency about this violation. More precisely, the public water supply broke this rule as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality mentioned and this was done by the managers using the wrong monitoring protocol for the city conducting water testing incorrectly. Thus, the lead levels in the tap water in Flint town were above the set level. For instance, the blood lead levels of children in Flint had doubled and even, in more difficult situations, tripled and led to development of diseases that were incurable. The national attention was attracted to the case by the residents of Flint who elevated public awareness about the situation. This action made the concerned government official acknowledge the problem, but the Flint problem has not been fully resolved yet.

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This water crisis in Flint evidently shows not only miscalculation and negligence but also the violation of legal policies such as SDWA. Public policy wrong decisions have negative impacts on the community which lives in Flint by providing them with unsafe water that leads to diseases and skin rashes. Therefore, the state failed to renew its aging water supply system and underfunded essential public services with the aim of cutting taxes for selected taxpayers. This budget cut left the Michigan community in debt and deprived a large population of the state the basic need of clean water, which violated the lead and copper rule (LCR) the main goal of which was to ensure maximum human health levels by providing water with little lead and copper amounts. It also provides the statutory basis for which EPA had to carry out its activities in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to implement the federal policies and statues (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2013).

In conclusion, the national bodies, policies, and the legal statutes are paramount in ensuring the safety of citizens of a particular state from being exploited as seen in the essay above. In addition, this legal system is the background of the societal equal justice, which provides the basis of health safety through the implementations of security acts such as the Safe Water Drinking Act (SDWA) and the lead and copper rule (LCR). Therefore, it the duty of the administrators in a given state to follow these legal guidelines in carrying out activities that involve taking care of the health of its residences, and in case they are to be corrected by the state legal authority, they should be flexible to change so as to maintain the safety of the public. Lastly, if anyone violates the civil rights of citizens that include providing clean water to the public, he/she should face the wrath of the judicial system by being sued by the people.