If the government won’t help Flint, the people will

Credit: Brendan Smoker

By: Brendan Smoker

Last year, a federal task force declared the Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water (DEQ) responsible for Flint’s water crisis. To be blunt, the DEQ claimed optimal corrosion control but actual reality was far from it. As the residents of Flint wait for freshwater from Lake Huron and the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) Pipeline to be complete, the struggle to get access to safe freshwater remains unsolved.

Fortunately, there are good people and organizations coming to Flint to help out. On Saturday, a collection of volunteers and organizations such as Crossing Waters, Stand Up, Flint, and Lansing for Bernie, united together to help get safe water to residents of Flint.

Things started out on the street in front of the Flint Municipal Community Center where anyone could come grab two cases of bottled water and a gallon jug for free. No questions, I.D. or proof of residency was required. Water donations were also accepted throughout the day. The only rule was to give as many people water as possible. Volunteers began handing out water in the morning and continued throughout the day into early evening.

Because not everyone in Flint owns a car, a group of volunteers departed early to join others at St. Michael’s church. Volunteers prepared to go door-to-door to survey families for their water needs and supply them with bottled water. Families were asked if they needed more water, filters, transportation, or if anyone had shown signs of symptoms such as rashes, or illness. This information will be used to make sure every household and individual has a water filter, a way to get water, information on where to go if one needs medical assistance, and general safety information that every resident of Flint should be aware of.

Unfortunately, too many people reported having no transportation to get water, a dire need for more water, and no filters for their faucets. It was common to hear symptoms of rashes and dry and cracked skin. There was a communal fear amongst parents that their children may have future side effects. Things became more frightening hearing a mother worry that she believes the water has affected her daughter’s memory. Or, that it’s suspected that the exponential increase of diagnosis of Legionnaire’s disease from 10 cases per year to 45 in Genesee County may be linked to the Flint water system. This idea came about when nearly half of the patients reported having Flint water at home.

It seems reasonable to ask, ‘why is not more being done to help these families out?’ It’s heartbreaking that individuals feel guilty for allowing their families to consume contaminated water, putting the blame on themselves. The true guilt lies on the DEQ and the state for being careless; down-playing their carelessness for over a year, lying to the citizens about the safety of the water, and doing next to nothing to correct the situation after being proved guilty. Sure, people of the DEQ resigned and got fired, but that does not alleviate the plight done to the entire city of Flint.

So where are we now? Governor Snyder’s response was to employ 30 National Guardsmen to hand out water. He asked the federal government for help, and admitted that the entire situation is a disaster. So we’re not very far. It is clear that, like most humanitarian issues, the resolution lies within the community and the individual, not our supposed big brother.

How depressing it is to put into words. An entire city’s water has been poisoned due to greedy and careless actions. Those responsible doing nothing to help. How immoral and de-sensitized has our government become? Some say the crisis is similar to Hurricane Katrina; however, this was entirely man’s fault. Mother Nature’s destructive beauty had no role in this one. No pawning off responsibility this time.

As sickening as it is, this crisis is far from over. The state and federal government have proven how slowly they’re going to be at addressing this situation. It’s up to us to make the difference. Flint lives matter. How hard is it to give households freshwater and filters? It’s not, so let’s not wait around for the government to do the right thing and fix their ridiculous mess.

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