10 years later, people in Flint are still suffering the effects of the water crisis

OPINION: Flint, Michigan, residents marked the 10-year anniversary of the water crisis by calling for justice and accountability, and they still don’t trust the water. 

In this March 21, 2016, file photo, the Flint Water Plant water tower is seen in Flint, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

The water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, began 3,653 days ago, on April 25, 2014, when the city switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The result was lead contamination being distributed through the city’s water system. 

At the time, Flint was 51.5% Black (the Black population in Michigan as a whole was 13.8%) and had a 40.1% poverty rate — meaning nearly half of the people in the city were living at or below the poverty line. The poverty rate in Flint was over double the state as a whole. Flint also had a higher proportion of people with disabilities, which is also a large contributor to poverty. 

The city ranked third in violent crime among other cities in the state, and the median income was only 52.5% of the state median. 

In other words, in the eyes of the government, these people were Black, poor and easily overlooked, so the government overlooked them. 

The people of Flint are still being overlooked. 

In 2020, the state of Michigan agreed to pay $600 million for its role in the water crisis while the city of Flint agreed to pay $20 million. Because of delays in the “claims administration process,” the only people who have seen any of that money are the attorneys involved with the case

The people of Flint are still suffering. 

Flint residents have written a letter to President Joe Biden, asking him to acknowledge the federal government’s role in the environmental disaster and to approve funds to settle a seven-year-old lawsuit against the EPA.

The EPA is still overlooking the Black, poor and disabled residents of Flint by refusing to acknowledge the role it played in the crisis. When the city decided to switch its water supply to the Flint River, the EPA was aware of the “dangerously inadequate treatment of water from the Flint River months before residents were notified,” according to the Detroit Free Press

In February, the EPA once again asked federal judge Linda Parker to dismiss a lawsuit filed by city residents. The EPA is attempting to use a type of governmental immunity in the case even though Parker already rejected a similar request from them in 2019. 

Recommended Stories

More from Freep:

“The disaster was preventable had the EPA simply done its job,” Flint residents Jan Burgess, Rhonda Kelso and Melissa Mays, who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, said in a Tuesday letter to Biden, who was vice president when the water crisis began.

The EPA “stood by and reinforced the state’s false assurances to us that our drinking water was safe, despite knowing that it was a lie.”

A White House spokeswoman, Sneha Choudhary, did not directly address the issue of past federal failings with respect to Flint, when asked for a response to the letter. But she said Biden secured $15 billion in funding for lead pipe replacement nationwide through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and $5 million for Flint through the Flint Registry, in the 2024 budget, to ensure “families in Flint have high quality health care, education, and proper nutrition as they recover from the crisis.”

Biden “firmly believes no family should worry that water from their tap will harm their children,” Choudhary said in an email.

I am going to need someone to draw me a diagram and explain to me how people who are still suffering the crippling effects of one of the biggest instances of environmental racism in our lifetime are supposed to “heal” from it. Why is it taking so long to replace lead pipes in a city that has become synonymous with lead pipes poisoning the water supply?

Explain it to me like I’m a 5-year-old because I really don’t get it, and if I don’t get it, how do you think the people of Flint feel? 

Thursday morning, people in Flint marched to City Hall to call for justice and accountability, and they still don’t trust the water. 

These are people who had to drag bottles of water to their homes in order to do everyday tasks like washing dishes, cooking and cleaning their bodies. 

Meanwhile, many homes still don’t have clean drinking water.

Just because it hasn’t been prominent in the headlines doesn’t mean the situation is resolved. 

It’s the way things go when Black, poor and disabled people are at the center of government corruption. 

The people who cause the pain get away with a mere slap on the wrist.

The people most affected by the corruption pay for the rest of their lives. 


Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.