Here in Pittsburgh citizens know that their right to clean air is not met everywhere, all the time, but it is reasonable for all citizens to expect clean, drinkable water. That has not been the case in the shale fields of Western Pennsylvania where fracking is the culprit. Where the responsibility lies in the Flint drinking water crisis is more widespread – failure to maintain basic infrastructure, lack of consideration of possible environmental impact, subsequent denial by officials, and indifference to communities like Flint with a high poverty rate and large portion of minorities.
Like many of our region’s own river towns, Flint is a remnant of the age when American manufacturing was mighty, but now the factories have left and 40 pct of the populace live below the poverty level. To save costs the state decided to switch the city’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River – a polluted river with acidic water corroding the old lead pipes and leading to high lead content in the drinking water. As experienced with fracking, for months the city and state denied there was a health problem with the water from the Flint River.
The people of Flint had little power to be heard, and it rested on a pediatrician at a local medical center to provide hard evidence that children were suffering from lead poisoning. Now the Governor is apologizing, the EPA regional director has resigned and a state of emergency is in place, but the new pipeline to Lake Huron will take time to be constructed, and the damage to the children has already been done.
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