Water contamination – Flint to Portland – doesn’t think it’s a big deal anymore – waste of resources
Water Crisis – It’s a Big Deal Nationwide
In 2014, Flint, Michigan residents came out nationally with a water crisis. The water coming from their taps was a muddy brown. Some water was so brown that it looked like chocolate milk. It didn’t taste that way, though, and thousands of residents began getting sick. Some were vomiting, others were losing the ability to speak. The children were at the highest risk, with the spike of Legionnaires’ disease appearing in the area. These problems arose after Flint began using river water to serve residents, citing cost-saving measures for the switch. Flint made national news; other cities did not, but the water crisis is a nationwide problem, largely ignored by local and federal governments.
Research from Flint proved that the lead levels in the water were at 13,200 parts per billion. Putting that in perspective means understanding that the EPA deems water contaminated with 5,000 parts per billion hazardous waste. The residents of Flint were using hazardous waste in their homes, showering with it, cooking with it, and drinking it, without knowing what they were putting into their bodies.
Other cities are struggling too. In 2011, the National Resources Defense Council study found 19 other cities with deteriorating plumbing, leading to pollution. Cities ranged from Albuquerque to Fresno to Denver. Some cities, to their credit, filed correct right-to-know reports, while other published incomplete information, misleading facts, or facts buried in confusing reports. Additionally, nearly all contaminated cities failed miserably to correctly report health hazards associated with the water.
Governments are also trying to push the problem under the rug. In July of 2014, Michigan state officials downplayed citizen concerns, telling people to “relax” about the water. It seems that local government officials are only feigning concern, working toward fixing the problem only after long-term outrage from the citizens. It took Flint officials a full year to respond to the problem.
Other cities are ignoring the issue, as well. St. Joseph, Louisiana, is handling its own water crisis, on par with Flint. Even small lead exposure causes long-term neurological trauma, and residents of St. Joseph are dealing with lead levels on par with Flint. There are six million miles of lead pipes across the nation. They carry water to homes, they rust, and the insert lead into the water supply. This is why the problem is nationwide, not isolated.
The Federal government enacted The Safe Drinking Water Act in 1986, which required the EPA to set strict standards for the amount of allowable lead in public water pipes. The goal was “lead-free” pipes. Many cities nationwide replaced lead piping with PVC, but poorer districts opted for anti-corrosive agents instead of full pipe changes, due to cost. Decades later, these poorer cities are facing severe water contamination and illness. Local governments simply don’t know how to react – so many of them are ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away.
Why doesn’t everyone just buy bottled? There’s a simple answer to that – poverty. These are some of the poorest municipalities in the nation. The New York Times has argued that cities might respond faster if the populations were wealthy, but unfortunately, over 50% of most of these cities are poverty-stricken residents. Many are also African-American, putting the race card into play.
Residents watch as water turns from clear, to yellow, to deep brown, and as their families get sicker and sicker. Many cities have rallied the Federal government for help, some receiving that help through free cases of bottled water. However, the free water will only last so long, then the residents are left with the mud coming from their pipes. The temporary answer is bottled water; the long-term answer is PVC piping through the city. The question is: will the Federal government step up, allocate the funds, and help these cities with their necessary long-term goals?
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