The city of Flint (Michigan), an hour’s drive north of Detroit, was best known until now as the symbol of the automotive crisis. Its plant closures, the unemployment rate nearly twice the national average, 41% of its population living below the poverty line. But for several months, this agglomeration of 100 000 inhabitants must fight with another scourge lead. The contamination of drinking water in the city, caused by a change in the method of supply to enable to achieve short-term gains, forced the President of the United States to declare, Saturday, January 16, an emergency.
This aid decided by Barack Obama will accelerate the distribution of bottled water and filters by the National Guard and hold a budget, while the anger rises against local authorities who closed his eyes for months.
In 2011, Flint, close to bankruptcy, is placed by Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, under the control of a supervisory authority. Until then, the community bought its drinking water from the city of Detroit. But the controller deems too expensive solution and decided that from April 2014 Flint will pump water into the local river, before it is processed. Soon, residents complain about the color and taste of the water. Some suffer vomiting, hair loss and rash.
Boil water before drinking
After discovering bacteria in tap water, city publishes opinion recommending to boil it before drinking. The solutions adopted by the processing plant only increase the level of contaminants.
A few months later, in October 2014, General Motors, which has plants in the city, stop using the municipal water, considered too corrosive for parts of its cars. The pipes would they have been more resistant? Attacked the pipes gradually distil their lead in drinking water.
begins a scenario in Erin Brockovich, the environmental activist, played on screen by Julia Roberts, who at early 1990s, revealed a water pollution case in California. Faced with the incredulity of Michigan authorities, a mother from Flint, who cares rashes of his son, finally alerting Environmental Protection Agency of the US. Blood tests conducted on children shows lead levels two times higher than the norm.
It was not until September 2015 that proof of poisoning is recognized by the authorities. Since the scandal continues to gain momentum. The Ministry of Justice announced on January 8, the opening of an investigation. The repeated apologies from Mr. Snyder struggling to calm the population. “We will ensure that this will never happen again in the state of Michigan,” he said January 13.
“Ten people were killed here because of a political decision “
But the damage is done. To date, authorities have identified 43 people with excessive doses of lead. This metal can damage the nervous system and delayed brain development in young children. Meanwhile, since June 2014, he was diagnosed legionellosis in 87 people. Ten of them have died.
Saturday, filmmaker Michael Moore, a native of Flint destroyer of societal and economic failures of the United States, came to support the inhabitants. “It is not a mistake. Ten people were killed here because of a political decision. They knew “ he has launched at an event that brought together hundreds of people, accusing them vis-à-vis authorities neglect of a poor town, which has a large black population. “They would never do that in West Bloomfield or Ann Arbor [two affluent municipalities in the region]. This is not just a water crisis. It’s a racial crisis, a crisis of poverty. “
Since October 2015, Flint again buys water from Detroit, but the pipes are damaged. The cost of repairs is estimated at $ 1.5 billion, no one knows exactly who will pay. And besides the many lawsuits to come.