The recent water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan illustrates how governments at the local, state and even federal level will often make decisions that carelessly and needlessly endanger the health of their citizens. While Flint citizens immediately noticed the disturbing change in water quality and began to complain of symptoms, cover-ups by state and federal agencies prevented the needed action to take place. Over months, the citizens of Flint unknowingly poisoned themselves and their children by trusting their municipal water source. By the time the public became aware of the potential danger, much of the damage had already been done.
As an expert in the field of water purity, our team would like to give you an inside perspective about lead poisoning and how these recent events affect the average homeowner. While this might seem like an isolated incident, Flint is not the only American city with outdated water infrastructure, nor is it the only city with high levels of water pollutants. In many ways, this should be a wake-up call to public health officials across the country, because it is not a matter of if we encounter this problem again, but when.
Unfortunately, governmental health agencies cannot always be trusted to act in the best interest of their communities – just look at the spate of public officials that have resigned in the past month in Michigan. There are political motives and financial constraints that shift the burden of unclean water to regular families. While this is a sad reality, there are ways that homeowners can take water purity into their own hands, a topic that we will discuss later.
A Long Haul to Find Clean Water
Jackie Demberton considered herself a “big water drinker.” Aside from coffee, water is about the only thing she drinks — about a gallon’s worth daily. However, when she saw the water coming out of her home’s faucet after the City of Flint decided to switch their water source to the Flint River, she began to reconsider her habits. The foul-smelling, cloudy water did not sit right with her natural instincts.
Yet, Jackie had little choice after a few days. With the expense of bottled water and a lack of a home filtration system, she decided to “bite the bullet.” That’s when the heartburn started. At first she tried to allay her fears, but a concerning letter from Flint about water tests prompted her to go see a doctor. The doctor’s advice? Stop drinking the Flint water.
Now, Jackie has to fill up jugs at her son’s house over 10 miles away in Burton. Her heartburn has since subsided, but she must go through great lengths to secure the clean water source that Flint refused to give her.
The Origins of the Crisis
For decades, Flint’s municipal water supply was bought and shipped in from Detroit. In 2013 though, Flint authorities submitted a proposal to build their own water pipeline from Lake Huron, which would save the city millions of dollars upon completion, but meant they would have to find an alternative source during the construction phase.
Flint officials decided to upgrade their long-unused water treatment facility and pump in water from the Flint River starting April 25, 2014. Within just a few weeks, complaints were already pouring in, flooding inboxes with messages about poor-smelling and worse-tasting water. The city tried to mollify the city’s grievances, adding lime extract and chlorine in an attempt to combat the foul water. At this time, Michigan officials refused to acknowledge there was a problem, even saying:
“It’s a quality, safe product. I think people are wasting their precious money buying bottled water.”
– Ex-Mayor Dayne Walling
By early 2015, the city had issued a “boil water advisory” after traces of fecal matter were found in public water samples. Even worse, carcinogenic compounds called THM’s (or trihalomethane) were found in the water, which directly violates safety standards in the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Throughout the rest of the year, researchers from Virginia Tech and Hurley Medical Center found that lead contamination levels exceeded federal standards by 880 times. Normal lead levels suggest 15 parts per billion (ppb) in public samples, while Flint’s water contained a staggering 13,200 ppb. This high level of contamination was mostly due to corrosive piping that was leaching lead pollutants directly into drinking water.
Most concerning of all is that this contamination lead to serious health concerns, like a spike in Legionnaire’s disease, which resulted in the death of 10 people. Another 6,000 to 12,000 residents also have abnormally high rates of lead concentration in the blood. Now, a crisis that is years in the making has finally culminated into a federal state of emergency for Flint, a massive cover-up, a multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit, and no real end in sight.
Bigger Issues for Flint’s Youngest Residents
Many residents are now seeking the medical attention they need to recover from toxic consumption, but for thousands of young children, their problems may have just started. Pollutants like lead and other volatile organic compounds are severely toxic to developing brains.
Attacking the prefrontal cortex and other key parts of the nervous system, concentrated blood lead levels in children can lead to a host of concerning symptoms for which there is no known cure. Learning disabilities, depression, apathy, mood swings, behavioral issues, short-term memory loss, decreased intelligence and more can be the result. Symptoms also take their toll on other important bodily systems; kidney damage, increased risk of heart disease, hearing loss and more can all result from long-term lead exposure in developing bodies.
How You Can Protect Your Family
566 days: that’s how long it took for Flint to finally switch its water back to a safe source, even as complaints came pouring in from citizens on day one. Families should not allow their children to endure this level of cruel negligence and indifference. They can purchase home filtration and treatment systems that allow their water to be purified at the source rather than trusting municipal lines to deliver safe water. Since tap water is used for much more than drinking — think about cooking, doing dishes, bathing, laundry and other activities — these filtration systems can greatly improve your quality of life while protecting the health of your children.
The scariest part about the Flint Water Crisis is that it can happen anywhere. Throughout Atlanta, where our business is located, a majority of public water is pumped from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River. This means that most of our water infrastructure was constructed in mid-1950’s when Lake Lanier was dammed and filled, around the same time that Flint’s horrendous public water system was also created.
The underlying problem is that outdated infrastructure simply can’t withhold the test of time. Water mains break, chemical pollutants seep in, and the average homeowner is left with little defense of his or her own. The solution, though, is simple: in-home water treatment.
For lead concerns, reverse osmosis filtration can be one of the safest and most reliable ways to remove contaminants at the tap. Protect your children and their future well-being with a simple commitment to install at-the-source reverse osmosis filtration systems. Don’t make the mistake that Flint citizens did in thinking that the government held their health and best interests in mind. Call your local Atlanta water purification experts today.