By: Stephanie Bertini
During a 2014 water crisis in Michigan, lead was found in tap water and it had a tremendous impact on residents until 2019.
A switch in the water supply unleashed poisonous realities for the American city where the population is mostly Black and where many live in poverty. Now, there are pending efforts to hold people accountable for the injustice many are calling environmental racism. BNC correspondent Stephanie Bertini traveled to Flint for an up-close look at where things stand today and how lives were forever changed.
Deborran Kelley is a Flint resident who still doesn’t trust that the water is safe. “We need to know behind a shadow of a doubt that this water is safe,” she said. “I don’t trust them. I don’t drink this water. I don’t brush my teeth with this water. Here at home or at work.”
Although officials say the water in Flint is safe now, many people don’t believe it. In the years leading up to the crisis, the city was suffering financially and, under emergency management, made the decision to get water from Lake Huron independently. Before the long-term plan could be put in place, a temporary switch to Flint River as the water source was made, even though the safety of the water was in question.
An alleged failure to treat the water with the proper chemicals caused the water to corrode lead pipes and leak poisonous chemicals into the water supply, according to court documents. Local and state officials did not admit there was a problem right away, but the color of the water revealed major issues.
Residents like Mona Monroe-Yunis were directly impacted. Showing BNC discoloration on her leg, she said, “This is from an autoimmune disease I got from the water crisis, and now every time I have a health issue that pops up, I have a huge flair up.” The water crisis is a part of a larger issue of environmental racism, according to Monroe-Yunis. Now, there are plans to bring an asphalt plant to a community bordering Flint.
For years, efforts to fix things have involved replacing lead pipes, something that is a problem President Joe Biden is pushing to address in infrastructure plans. The bill he proposed included $45 billion to eliminate lead pipes and service lines. Today, Flint gets its water from the Great Lakes Water Authority.
Whether the water is okay doesn’t matter to some residents, as the trust eroded may never return.
If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.