Poisoning the Poor

 

 

FlintWater

Flint’s dirty, lead contaminated water

 

Disgusting. Unconscionable. Typical.

The adjectives overwhelmed my brain, making it nearly impossible to concentrate on writing a cohesive piece.

Then for days, I would forget.

I would forget until the headlines forced me to remember.

Flint, Michigan.

Yesterday, the headline that made me take notice and remember, “Flint residents paid the highest rate in the nation for contaminated water,” forced me to sit on my rear to write this post.

Disgusting. Unconscionable. Typical.

The Detroit Free Press‘s article announced the results of a study by the Food and Water Watchgroup that studied the 500 largest cities in the country and found that Flint charges twice the amount as the national average for its water. Insult upon horrific insult made even worse by the fact these residents being served up contaminated water for more than a year had to even pay in the first place.

Disgusting. Unconscionable. Typical.

General Motors essentially made Flint from the 1920s to the 1980s, when it decided to move their plants somewhere else. They moved the factories, but not the workers. Flint has suffered the fate of all company towns when the company no longer wants to be there.

The companies don’t even bother saying, “Sayanora and good luck, we must leave you, taking your jobs, your economy, and your dignity. In turn, we leave you with unemployment, crime, and hopelessness.” They just leave. And no one gives a damn about it.

Towns like Flint become wastelands of poverty, dissolving into vacuums ripe for drugs and violence. The human spirit deflates faster than Tom Brady’s footballs.

And no one cares, especially the ones who caused it.

As a result, Flint went into economic decline, and by 2011, the city was in a financial state of emergency. To cope, Flint cut its budget by changing the source of their water in April 2014.

That’s bad enough, but it gets worse. After the new water lines were installed to bring water in from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron, residents complained of discoloration and foul smells and tastes coming out of their faucets. The residents complained, but no one listened. Residents, who can’t afford bottled water and who most likely struggle to pay the exorbitant water fees, were charged for dirty water.

No one listened for almost two years. No one listened to the families living below the poverty level who knew one thing for sure. Water should never taste or smell or contain color. From April 2014 to late 2015, nothing was done, until folks starting dying of Legionnaires, and children began suffering from the symptoms of lead contamination.

water

The noncolor of water

Today, The Detroit Free Press reported that a man suffering from headaches, sweats, and exhaustion has levels of lead in his blood that are five times the level that is considered toxic. Most of the worry previously had been about children, rightly so. But now it’s becoming obvious that adults will see the impacts as well.

Since April 2014, Flint residents bathed, brushed their teeth, drank, and cooked with toxic water.

Disgusting. Unconscionable. Typical.

Bring us the bottled water and the filters now that this national disgrace has made headlines. Stop drinking the water now, dear residents, and don’t slip up and forget when you’re standing at the sink getting ready to brush your teeth. Don’t forget to close the lid on the toilet when you flush so you’re not spraying more than crap into the air. And pick up your bottled water–provided free of charge, of course–when you come to pay your water bill for the water coursing through your pipes that could poison you and your children if you use it.

What are the solutions? Unfortunately, the damage has been done in Flint, but there are things we could do so this doesn’t happen again, but we’re going to have to change our view about the poor and their right, yes their right, to clean water.

  • Make corporations that create these company towns or communities accountable when it’s no longer feasible for them to stick around. This happened in the towns surrounding Pittsburgh, too, in the 1980s when the steel companies pulled out. WalMart creates the same hole when they close out stores in communities where they destroyed the small businesses when they opened. I read that one town in Arkansas will no longer have a grocery store when WalMart closes their store this month. Why? Because WalMart ran the smaller stores out of business when they could not compete with the giant’s low prices. These corporations are given incentives and infrastructure to build in these small communities, so they should be forced to do something when they leave that will help the community they’re destroying.
  • Don’t allow local governments to cut back on infrastructure for essential services, such as water. I’ll say it again. Clean water is a right, not a privilege for the rich. If we think otherwise, we’re responsible for genocide. In fact, the folks in Michigan who allowed this travesty to continue for nearly two years did practice a form of genocide. Let’s hope it’s limited to just ten residents (which is still ten too many).
  • Listen when residents speak. I don’t care if the first complainers are the ones who always complain. Water should never smell or taste or be the color of tea. Didn’t the folks in Flint who made the decisions about changing the water source drink the water themselves? Or are they in some ivory tower somewhere drinking water brought in from Lake Huron? Or maybe only bubbly from France will suffice.
  • Never, ever make residents pay for services they can’t use. This is simply unacceptable. This means the folks in Flint paid premium dollars to poison themselves. I would encourage all residents to stop paying those bills en masse.

At the risk of repeating myself, I will risk repeating because it has to be pounded into our collective head until we stop treating the poor communities we created as if they deserve less than the rest of us. Or worse. The residents of Flint were treated worse than we’d ever treat our pets and wildlife. They were treated as if their lives didn’t matter.

Disgusting. Unconscionable. Typical.

woodstork

Let’s make it better for all living creatures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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