It was a chilly March evening when LeeAnne Walters woke up to the sound of a blood-curdling scream. Anticipating a burglar, she sprinted upstairs, baseball bat in hand. What she found was not a thief, but something just as shocking; her 18-year-old daughter Kaylie, staring in shock at the brown clump on the floor that used to be her hair.
Walters’ case is alarming. Sadly, it is not unique. For many months, residents in Flint, Michigan have noticed a variety of absurd symptoms–ranging from hair loss to random bursts of aching bones. While these cases were initially shrugged off, reports revealing Governor Rick Snyder’s switching of Michigan’s water source from Lake Huron to the toxic Flint River have recently sparked national outrage. While the Obama administration has taken steps to remedy this problem, the damage has been done. Thousands of residents remain intoxicated and incapacitated by the high amounts of lead in their body. They serve as testaments not only to the dangers of lead poisoning but also to the greediness and mismanagement tainting local governments.
The case all began when Governor Snyder took office in 2011. One of the first measures Snyder enacted was a multi-billion dollar tax break that decreased the amount of taxes that the rich had to pay. To compensate for this decreased revenue, Snyder had to start cutting costs. Schools, welfare systems, pensions and countless other public services were slashed in an effort to scrape up as much money as possible. Next up on Snyder’s radar was the city’s water source. Supplied by Lake Huron and purified by the Detroit Water Plant, Flint had enjoyed the best quality water for decades. To “cut out the middle man” and garner even more profits, Snyder unhooked the city from this reserve of clean water and instead, forced residents to drink from the toxic and untested Flint River. For over an year, the city has been drinking and bathing in this toxic lead-filled water.
What makes the matter even more absurd is how easily this issue could have been combated. Federal laws require all water systems to have a coating that prevents lead from leeching into the water; and hundred dollars a day for three months is all that would have to be paid. This choice proved itself ironic because the state willing to sacrifice the health of its residents for $9,000, now faces up to $1.5 billion to clear up the mess.
Consider this: a few months after this switched water supply, General Motors filed a complaint to Governor Snyder, asking him to switch back to the non-corrosive Lake Huron water that was better to purify car parts. Snyder was willing to spend $440,000 to quietly hook that one company back to the original Lake Huron source, while the rest of the city bathed and drank liquid lead. Clearly it’s fine for our children to be poisoned but god forbid our cars should rust!