By: Mitch Hughes
Water. You may have heard of it. It is the foundation of life on earth and subsequently a daily necessity for us humans. It is recommended that each person drink at least eight cups of the stuff a day, if not more. Of course water is good for plenty of other things such as growing food, personal hygiene, generating electricity, putting out fires, and swimming pools. Water’s importance to life cannot be understated, so it makes sense that clean, usable water is should be made available to everyone, right? Well, it isn’t always so, as numerous cases of municipalities neglecting their citizens’ safety concerning public water have emerged.
The most widely known case as of late is in Flint, Michigan. The issue began when the city council decided to save money in Flint by drawing water from the polluted Flint River instead of Lake Huron where they usually derived the city’s water. The water from the Flint River is very high in corrosive iron. As if the brown water wasn’t bad enough, the corrosive water from the Flint River caused lead from the city’s transport pipes to seep into the public water supply. Citizens of Flint were unaware of the situation for over eighteen months. This could have been mitigated by putting an anti-corrosive agent into the water, but such action was never taken. Because of the negligence of state and city officials, blood lead levels in toddlers were more than twice normal levels. This is especially concerning because according to the World Health Organization, “Lead interferes with the metabolism of calcium and Vitamin D. High blood lead levels in children can cause consequences which may be irreversible including learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mental retardation. At very high levels, lead can cause convulsions, coma and death.”
It’s bad enough that an incident like that in Flint happens singularly, but another has already emerged, this time in Sebring, Ohio. In Sebring, over 8000 water customers are at risk by lead water levels that exceed the action level according to the Ohio EPA. Though Sebring residents haven’t been exposed to the lead leached water for as long as those in Flint, city officials failed to inform their residents of the first occurrence in November, 2015.
The common thread between the two instances of lead contaminated water is complete negligence by officials on the city and state levels. People are suffering lead poisoning and children are facing a vast array of complications in the development of their brains because it was too inconvenient for an elected official to simply tell people the truth about what is going on with the water that they depend on. One can only hope that municipalities facing similar issues will learn from the mistakes of Flint and Sebring and inform their residents of the problem and actually take legitimate measures to solve it.