Flint, Michigan Water Crisis Olivia Lafferty

The hysteria over the contaminated water in Flint, Michigan is one of the most well known cases of disadvantages due to poverty that is known in modern America. In 2014, the supply pipes that transported river water to the homes of Flint citizens began to corrode, which left harmful levels of lead in the water. The dangerous chemicals made the water visibly dirty, and proved to have negative health effects on minors under the age of 21 and to pregnant women. The lead-based water significantly increased the risk of cancer in adults, and in children it caused impaired cognition, behavioral disorders, hearing and vision issues, and reduced fetal growth (CNN). When looking at today’s world, it can be simply concluded that access to clean water is taken for granted, as it is necessary for bathing, washing clothes and dishes, and most importantly, drinking. For months, city and state officials as well as the Department of Environmental Quality denied that there was any issue and refused to treat the water with an anti-corrosive agent. For about three years, these people have had to silently deal with the absence of the most important substance for any living thing, water. Clearly, the Flint, Michigan residents are being denied their basic rights to clean, healthy water, and also easy access to what is necessary to them for survival. In addition, this water crisis is a Civil Rights issue because all people should be able to freely and easily use water without having to fear for their health and their children’s.

By switching water sources to cut costs in 2014, Flint now has the need for over $1.5 million in repairs of corrosive pipes

The Civil Rights misdemeanor in Flint and the African American Civil Rights movement are similar because both of the affected groups of people have been refused of their natural rights because of uncontrollable factors. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s affected any person of African American descent who tried to advance their personal liberties in racist societies. African Americans were kept from voting through unfair reading tests and taxes based on race. In Mississippi, before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, only 6% of African Americans voted (Zeiger). The schools, bathrooms, water fountains, and overall living conditions of African Americans during this time were severely low quality. For black people in the South, there was an everyday threat of death by lynching or beating just because they were free blacks in racist areas. Flint residents also cannot improve their civil rights setbacks because 41.2% of them live in poverty. These people are forced to live with deadly water because they do not have the financial resources to buy bottled water, filter their water at home, or move out of the area to a place with more healthy water. These people, who were already struggling to survive due to their financial states, cannot spend an enormous amount of money on improving their water. There is still an estimated 20,000 lead tainted pipes in the town, but many residents are too impoverished to drink healthier water. Both of these historical instances involve people who cannot control the factors that put them at a civil disadvantage in society. Many Flint residents did not have the money to support their water supply, just as African Americans could not change the race that caused them to be discriminated against. Both of these instances involve people who were denied basic rights because of uncontrollable causes.

8,657 children have been exposed to lead poisoning or newfound behavioral problems

However, these civil injustices are different because African Americans experienced hate and violence in addition to not having basic rights, while Flint residents simply do not have clean water. In the first Civil Rights movement, 3,959 African American men, women, and children were lynched between the years 1950 and 1977 (Mackaman). Peaceful protests by African Americans, which are notably a right by the First Amendment, were consistently shot down by angry mobs, policemen, and the KKK. IN present times, many of these acts could have been considered terrorism because,“Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials.” Overall, this movement represented insecurity among whites who feared progress or equal rights by blacks. However, in Flint, Michigan, the people in the town are not actually discriminated against, and there are far more efforts to change their difficult situation. After two years of the problem being ignored, the government is finally stepping in to replace the dangerous pipes. These people do not have clean water, but their Civil Rights issue is at least being acknowledged by the public. African Americans were alone in facing violence and discrimination because of their race, but people living in Flint's rights are only violated because of a lack of clean water. Their battle for equal rights is different because they are not actually faced with hate crimes.

200,000 pipes are still chipping from lead

The water has been virtually unusable in a town already with a 41.2% poverty rate

The Department for Environmental Quality and local government officials denied there was any problem for years

Only eight days ago was there money donated to replacing pipes

And the most outrageous part?

Flint residents still have to pay for the water they can't use

Americans must not idly stand by while people are becoming diseased by poisoned water, and live without clean water that is too often taken for granted. The federal government donated $100 million to Flint’s sanitary needs only seven days ago (as of March 22) after three years of them living without fresh water for their basic needs. In addition, only this year did the EPA grant $200 million to Flint, Michigan so that they could replace their 200,000 poisoned pipes. In the meantime, only 800 homes have been replaced with copper pipes, and the community has been raising funds for bottled water to be distributed to the public. The main fund for the residents is called HelpForFlint. It issues free medical services to people who were harmed by the lead and has distributed free cancer testing for adults. In addition, there is a local driver for the Flint Water Fund who dedicatedly distributes water bottles throughout the city. The Flint water supply still has a long way to go before it can finally be anti-corrosive, which is why donations to these organizations are always important. Citizens can also support research and public health services for their county, in addition to donating to food pantries and shelters for residents in that area. Finally, one of the most emphasized points is to petition to prevent residents from paying for the water that they cannot even drink.

"I am afraid that unless things change on all sorts of levels... we're going to see more and more of this." -Laura McIntyre (Flint resident)
Could you survive without healthy water?


"Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts." CNN. Cable News Network, 20 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017. <http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/>.

Kennedy, Merrit. "Lead-Laced Water In Flint: A Step-By-Step Look At The Makings Of A Crisis." NPR. NPR, 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 22 Mar. 2017. <http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/20/465545378/lead-laced-water-in-flint-a-step-by-step-look-at-the-makings-of-a-crisis>.

Mackaman, Tom. "Nearly 4,000 Blacks Were Lynched in Jim Crow South." Nearly 4,000 Blacks Were Lynched in Jim Crow South, Report Finds - World Socialist Web Site. World Socialist Web Site, 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.

None. "Effort to Replace Pipes to Flint Homes off to Slow Start." Detroit Free Press. N.p., 19 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017. <http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/flint-water-crisis/2017/03/19/flint-lead-pipes-water/99385754/>.

Stack, Liam. "Lead Levels in Flint Water Drop, but Residents Still Can't Drink It." The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/24/us/flint-michigan-water.html?_r=0>.

Zeiger, Jennifer. The Civil Rights Movement. New York: Children's, 2012. Print.

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