The crisis in Flint has remained one of our most pressing national conversations, with the mismanagement of the water supply continuously derided by figures like John Oliver, Trevor Noah, and Stephen Colbert, along with many other media outlets—and for good reason. Today marks the two-year anniversary since an emergency manager appointed by Governor Rick Snyder switched Flint’s water from Detroit’s system to the Flint River.
Governor Snyder, under pressure from Flint residents, recently announced that he will be drinking and cooking with water from Flint for the next month to prove it’s safe when filtered. But this stunt is little more than PR—and residents have had to live with dirty, unsafe drinking water for two years, not a month. Meanwhile, the full range of health effects from lead contamination can’t be totally accounted for yet, and will be felt by residents for decades.
The takeaways should be clear—and yet, the conditions that led to this disaster still persist in Flint, and threaten other cities as well. Governor Snyder, who prides himself on running government like a corporation, remains in office. The power to appoint an emergency manager is still in the governor’s hands. New Jersey is looking into legislation that could privatize Atlantic City’s water system. And despite the criminal charges brought against two state employees and one city employee last week resulting from an investigation of the lead contamination in Flint, Governor Snyder still hasn’t been held accountable for his role in this emergency.
Flint remains a cautionary tale of how we cannot put a price on clean water, and how we cannot view water provision as a business decision. In the name of profit and cost cutting, this corporate mindset has put people at risk, not only in Flint, but also across the country. Because the federal government has deprioritized our infrastructure for decades, other cities, including those that also have lead service pipes, face a similar threat. It’s time that we adequately fund our water systems and bring our water infrastructure into the 21st century.