Environmental justice means treating and involving all people fairly regarding the implementation and development of environmental policies, regulations, and laws. Vulnerable communities often end up falling prey to environmental pollution inadvertently because of other man-made policies. 2014’s Flint Water Crisis is one such example.
Michigan’s Flint had water struggles prior to the beginning of the infamous crisis. This was the city in which General Motors were founded. However, in the 80s, with the decline of the automobile industry, the city too began fading. And by 2019, more than 38% of residents are currently under the line of poverty.
In 2013, officials of the city made the decision to use the river in Flint as the water supply instead of pumping Detroit’s treated water. This would minimize costs a lot. However, the city failed in properly treating the water, As a result, lead leached into the water supply of Flint city. Officials also kept assuring the residents of its safety even after repeated complaints from the residents.
It was only in October 2015 did the old water system from Detroit return. But the Flint water crisis was well underway by then. The river’s untreated water corroded the old lead pipes of the city. As a result, lead leached into homes. Water filters and bottles were given but residents continued to struggle for water. Then it took another 2 years to repair all the lines for water service. Finally, the office of the governor confirmed that the water was clean in 2018.
Years Of Environmental Injustice Behind The Flint Water Crisis
But why was the Flint River’s water so corrosive? Studies claim that this high level of pollution was mainly due to the automobile company of General Motors. The company, founded in 1908, had eight plants in Flint by 1966. The US Interiors Department reported in 1966 that the plants were dumping a minimum of 10 gallons of waste daily into the Flint River. It got worsened by other industries.
Then the treatment method in 2014 involved only chlorine and no other non-corrosive agents as per usual policy. As a result, there was no stopping the Flint water crisis. Moreover, systematic racism played a big part since 54% of the residents are African Americans.
Fortunately, it has since been fixed as announced by the governor’s office. But even in 2021, some residents in Flint still prefer bottled water over the government’s words after the Flint Water Crisis.