A Flint citizen holds up contaminated water from her tap.

Audrey Wang, Staff Writer

It seems preposterous in this day and age,  the United States would be facing a lack of clean water in the United States.  This very situation, however, is exactly the case in Flint, Michigan.

It all started in 2011, when Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of financial emergency in Flint. The city faced a $15 million budget deficit and, consequently, Snyder appointed unelected officials to oversee the city. Appointed by Snyder, emergency manager Ed Kurtz decided on June 26, 2013 to switch to using Flint River water instead of buying water from Detroit in order to save $19 million over eight years.

This new water system used the city’s old and corrosive pipes, which contaminated the water immediately. The water was tinted various shades of green, beige, brown, and yellow. It smelled like gasoline and a fish market; the residents of the city began complaining of burning skin, hand tremors, hair loss, and even seizures.

Most affected were the children, many being diagnosed with anemia and even Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially deadly form of pneumonia, causing ten of the 87 people infected to die. Lead goes directly to the brain and harms it within minutes of taking in the lead. It shows for only for a week or so in the bloodstream, but the effects are permanent. So while the numbers make it appear as if only 18 children have tested positively for lead in their blood, those are the only ones who have been drinking the water recently. Many of the children now have developmental disorders and brain damage.

With all of these facts, the water obviously seems harmful and undrinkable, yet many government officials repeatedly lied in an attempt to cover up their mistakes. At one point, Flint’s mayor at the time, Dayne Williams, appeared on television and drank the muddy water, assuring residents that it was safe.

Warning memos that were written by specialists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were dismissed and ignored. Even General Motors had to stop using the water at its Flint plant because it was corroding the engine parts, while the residents of Flint were still drinking it.

All of this could have been fixed at the very beginning. Flint leaders made the choice not to treat the Flint River water with a corrosion inhibitor even though the water had a particularly high level of chloride, a substance in road salts that are so corrosive that it causes cars to rust. This simple $80 to $100 a day cost seems like a small amount to pay for the lives of the people in Flint now.

Snyder did not get involved until researchers and others pressured him into it. Even then he still refuted and denied his accusers. Snyder’s chief of staff emailed the state health officials saying that the Flint residents felt as if they were “basically getting blown off by us,” which they were. (February 1, 2016, Time) He clearly knew about the lead levels, even though he claimed he didn’t know anything before October, when the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the high levels of lead in the water. However, his former chief of staff had met with Flint residents in July. Even though every step of this crisis lead to Snyder and his knowledge, he still refused to admit that he knew anything.

Many believe the lack of representation of the people in their government is because of their demographic. Poor and predominantly African American, the residents of this city did not vote for Snyder in the last election. They had no political power, no lobbyists, no money, and Snyder took advantage of that for two years. Were this to happen in a city like Ann Arbor, or even here in Rochester, this would have been fixed immediately. A Flint native and famous filmmaker Michael Moore calls this a “racial crime. If it were happening in another country, we’d call it an ethnic cleansing.” (January 21,  2015, Moore)

Moore is also calling for the arrest of Governor Snyder; he started a web petition for the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking for the arrest of Snyder for corruption and assault (of the children). Rightfully angry, Moore and 604,000 (and rising) people are pressing for Snyder to resign and be put behind bars.

On Wednesday, February 3,two buses full of angry Flint residents went all the way to Washington, D.C. for a Congressional hearing on the city’s water crisis. They attended the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Flint’s water crisis. However, with all the supporters and evidence against him, Snyder declined the invitation to testify, even though he was at the head of all the operations and the most critical witness of all.

This act of betrayal from the government to the people of Flint is unacceptable and repulsive. Snyder needs to face the consequences of his actions, or rather, inaction. Snyder needs to be reprimanded for all the poisoned residents of Flint; the children who now have developmental disorders that face an unknown children, the families tested positive for lead poisoning, the ten dead from Legionnaires’ disease, and more. Snyder needs to fix the city of Flint and be reprimanded for his actions, or lack thereof.