Flint, Michigan Water Crisis: Mayor Declares State Of Emergency Amid Lead Poisoning Concerns

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is gaining national attention, as Mayor Karen Weaver has declared a state of emergency. According to reports, the city’s tap water, which was drawn from the Flint River between April 2014 and October 2015, contained dangerous amounts of lead.

Prior to April 2014, the city’s water was drawn from the Detroit Department of Water and Sewerage system. However, it was temporarily removed from the larger system to cut costs. As reported by the Washington Post, city leaders planned to tap into a newly-constructed Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline in 2016.

Although residents complained of numerous issues with the city’s new water system, including an unusual odor, officials insisted it was safe for consumption.

During the summer months of 2014, city officials issued boil advisories on numerous occasions. As reported by MLive, the water was found to contain unusually high levels of fecal coliform bacteria.

Unfortunately, efforts to rid the water of the dangerous bacteria only caused further issues.

On August 21, 2014, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality determined the city’s tap water was contaminated with dangerous levels of trihalomethanes, which are byproducts of chlorine disinfection. However, residents were not informed of the city’s violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act until January 2015.

Although residents of Flint, Michigan, were worried about the levels of trihalomethanes in the drinking water, they were far more concerned about the presence of dangerous amounts of lead.

As explained by the Mayo Clinic, lead poisoning rarely has an immediate effect. Instead, the metal builds up in a person’s body “over a period of months or years.”

Symptoms of lead poisoning in adults may include abdominal pain, constipation, headache, joint and muscle pain, a marked decline in mental function, memory loss, and mood disorders.

Unfortunately, the symptoms are far more severe in children under the age of 6. In young children and infants, lead poisoning can delay development and growth. Children exposed to the dangerous metal also experience appetite loss, behavioral issues, marked fatigue, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and mood swings. In severe cases, lead poisoning can be fatal.

In September 2015, Flint’s Hurley Medical Center announced that “the proportion of infants and children with above-average levels of lead in their blood has nearly doubled since the city switched from the Detroit water system to using the Flint River.”

Less than one month later, Governor Rick Snyder announced the city would switch back to the Detroit Department of Water and Sewerage system despite the $12 million in associated costs.

Although the switch was made on October 16, residents and their children are still experiencing signs of lead poisoning. According to reports, the city’s water infrastructure may have been compromised by the “corrosive Flint River water.”

As the Flint, Michigan, water crisis is ongoing, Mayor Weaver declared a state of emergency due to a “manmade disaster.”

In the official declaration, which is dated December 14, Weaver said that “this damage to children is irreversible and can cause effects to a child’s IQ, which will result in learning disabilities.”

Therefore, the mayor is requesting federal aid to cover expenses associated with increased mental health, as well as social and mental health services. She also requested a meeting with the Genesee County Board of Commissioners to address the “health, safety, and welfare” of the city’s residents.

A federal class-action lawsuit, which claims to represent “tens of thousands of residents,” was filed against Michigan Governor Snyder, the state of Michigan, and the city of Flint. As stated in the lawsuit, the defendants are accused of “deliberately” depriving residents of their 14th Amendment rights.

“For more than 18 months, state and local government officials ignored irrefutable evidence that the water pumped from the Flint River exposed [residents] to extreme toxicity… The deliberately false denials about the safety of the Flint River water was as deadly as it was arrogant.”

Although Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency for Flint, Michigan, it is unclear whether the city will be granted disaster relief. However, the declaration is expected to bring national attention to the city’s ongoing water crisis.

[Image via Shutterstock/TSpider]