By Darcey O’Callaghan, International Policy Director
The whole country is focused on what’s happening in Flint, Michigan, where the entire city has been poisoned by lead and other toxins in the water. But this is no tragic accident; this is the very definition of a man-made water crisis.
Michigan (my home state) has a draconian, undemocratic law that allows the governor to appoint an “emergency manager” in cities with budgetary issues. Flint’s emergency manager is the one who decided to change their water source in order to save money. Flint’s democratically elected City Council voted 7 to 1 in March 2015 to "do all things necessary” to return to purchasing clean water from Detroit, but the emergency manager vetoed the measure as “incomprehensible” because he considered the water safe and believed it was more important to save money.
That plan backfired disastrously, with Flint’s residents suffering the consequences. Flint will need as much as $1.5 billion in improvements to reverse the damage done to its water system, while residents face a lifetime of healthcare costs from lead poisoning.
It’s Governor Rick Snyder who failed the people of Flint and must be held accountable. He appointed the emergency manager who switched Flint’s water source to a polluted river in the name of cost cutting. His administration dismissed the water concerns of Flint residents. Worst of all, his administration knew about the city’s water problems for months but told Flint residents it was safe to drink.
Food & Water Watch has been working with other groups on this issue for a long time. Most recently, on January 15, I joined our Michigan organizer Lynna Kaucheck to deliver over 27,000 petition signatures to the Department of Health and Human Services, urging them to provide the help Flint residents need.
— Lena Smith (@lena_lsmith) January 15, 2016
It’s great that the truth is finally coming to light and that several state and federal officials have already resigned, but we are a long way from justice. Flint’s story is a case of environmental racism at its worst, where money was prioritized over human rights and democracy.
Unbelievably, the city of Flint is threatening to shut off water to those who are behind on their bills, even though people still depend on this undrinkable water for basic sanitation like flushing the toilet and washing hands. We’ve called for a moratorium on billing until the water is safe to drink. Will you take action to support Flint’s residents?