Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press/Associated Press
Garfield Senior High School

Op-Ed: The Fight for Clean Water in Flint, Mi. Continues

Access to clean water is a basic human right. The right to drinking, lead-free water shouldn’t be comprised for profit. Further, the interests of community members should always take precedence over those of multi-billion dollar corporations, especially in today’s developed society. Yet, the state of Michigan is unfortunately doing the exact opposite.

Flint made headlines for the dangerous amounts of lead contamination in its drinking water back in October 2015, and has struggled continuously to obtain safe water for its residents. Recently, Governor Rick Snyder, announced it would no longer provide free bottled water to the residents of Flint.

The state of Michigan has been unhelpful in assisting the community of Flint to solve the ongoing water crisis. Yes, the state is more than willing to give away nearly free water — just not to the residents who desperately need it. The state government of Michigan has agreed to allow Nestle, the Switzerland-based food and water company, almost double the amount of water it has been pumping, from 250 to 400 gallons per minute, for the next-to-nothing added cost of $200.

While Nestle pulls water from Michigan’s White Pine Springs for free, residents of Flint, less than 100 miles away, are still left without clean water due dangerous lead-fused water pipes. Indeed, despite state officials declaring that Flint tap water is safe to drink, tens of thousands of water pipes have yet to be replaced. According to the Washington Post, in fact, over 12,000 pipes need replacing. Tim Sneller, Michigan state representative, recently estimated that contaminated pipes in Flint, Michigan won’t be entirely replaced until 2020, over 5 years after the problem began.

Understandably, the majority of Flint community members rely solely on tapped water and the new expense for bottled water won’t be a welcomed addition to the already ridiculous bill statements many residents are forced to pay. Indeed, the public interest group, Food and Water Watch, reported that Flint residents paid some of the highest water rates in the country in a 2016 study. The study found that residents pay an average of $864 years, nearly double the national average, for water they don’t even use!

People living in Flint, Michigan have not only unfairly paid the price for the state’s negligence and desire to save a couple of bucks, they’re currently also being stranded by the very public servants who failed to inform them – and then denied – the crisis to begin with.

When Flint’s water source was switched from Detroit city water to the highly corrosive Flint river, all in an effort to save money, citizens were left aghast and distraught at the evident negligence and apathy displayed by city officials. It seems that history is simply repeating itself as Flint residents are shown, yet again, that their interests aren’t being considered.

In fact, despite the overwhelming public disapproval and the 80,000 comments against Nestle’s proposition to double the amount of water it pumps from Michigan’s water supply, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) still approved the proposition.

Unsure of what to do or how to act, Flint residents have collectively decided to boycott Nestle products in order to retaliate the proposition. Most Flint residents believe that Nestle could easily better the water treatment, if it so wanted. Gina Luster, longtime resident of Flint, states, “We’re not saying give everyone a new car, a new home. We’re just asking for our water treatment.”

When the water crisis was first publicized, the water giant, Nestle, publicly donated 1.5 million water bottles to Flint residents. Since then, however, Nestle has yet to take any serious action to aid citizens of Flint, Michigan, despite it astronomically profiting from Michigan’s freshwater sources.  

The corporation will now debilitate the residents of Flint by depleting their water source at an extraordinary rate and then selling that same bottled water back to the citizens of Michigan for a profit. Where’s the fairness in that? Ultimately, there isn’t any.

Citizens of Flint have been left alone, with no aid and no solution to their water crisis. The interests of citizens have been placed on the backburner in favor for those of a multi-billion dollar corporation. It seems that access to clean water isn’t, after all, a basic human right. It’s now something we have to fight for.

This article was previously published on NYAToday.com.

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