It’s 2015 and believe it or not, it’s only been roughly five years since the geopolitical powers deigned it time to finally pass a UN resolution calling access to drinking water a “basic human right.” That being said, things rarely play out as one would wish—especially in Flint, Michigan. That beleaguered city has learned the hard way that just because you have a right, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll actually get to exercise it.
In fact, drinking tap water in Flint may leave you living out a real life version of Idiocracy.
That’s right. Doctors are now warning that drinking the tap water of the city that General Motors almost abandoned could actually permanently lower your IQ. Somebody needs to get Michael Moore back over to Flint for another documentary, ASAP.
The city of Flint officially released a lead advisory last Friday, stating that even though “the City is in full compliance with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act,” it is unsafe to drink the water. How is this possible, you ask? To understand how water can be in full compliance with the law—yet undrinkable—you have to understand that the problem began when the city of Flint switched last year from using Detroit water as its source to using Flint River water. Since then, lead levels in the tap water have doubled.
Still the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services denies there is a problem at all— and claims the elevated levels were simply “seasonal and not related to the water supply.”
But here’s the thing. The water alone is not the problem. Researchers at Virginia Tech found that the source of the problem is that Flint River water contains much more sediment than lake or other water and therefore requires much more serious treatment to filter out lead—treatment it is not getting. So when this corrosive water comes into contact with the service lines, pipes, or solder in Flint, it corrodes them in an aggressive manner. Hence: lots of lead pouring out through residents’ faucets with their drinking water.
In short, toxic levels of lead have leached into the residential water supply for around 15,000 of the area’s homes.
GM, which still has some operations in the area, caught on early. The unnatural corrosiveness of the Flint River-sourced water forced General Motors to halt using Flint River water six months after it became the city’s primary water source. And now, the city itself has finally caught on that their water supply is dangerous.
The lightbulb finally lit up over the city’s collective head last week when Hurley Medical Center released a study that showed that lead was found in the blood of children at unnaturally high levels, especially in certain zip codes.
That’s definitely not a good thing, because children suffering from lead poisoning can suffer from a range of irreversible problems, including everything from learning problems to organ damage. Then, for adults, there’s also hearing problems, seizures, kidney damage, and risk of miscarriage. The list goes on and on. Memory loss and a lowered IQ are among the more salient problems associated with lead poisoning.
Doctors are now warning pregnant women, senior citizens, and children to stop drinking tap water in Flint. Genesee County has issued a public health advisory.
It’s time to stop drinking the tap water in Flint. We can only hope that officials there will be able quickly to restore the city’s basic human right of potable drinking water.