You are here

Well, If You Ask Me: Flint

By Dano T. Bob - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 23, 2016

Wow, the current situation in Flint, Michigan is fucked up. In a situation brought on by a so called “Emergency Manager,” who was appointed to run the city by Governor Rick Scott, Flint has been getting its drinking water since April 2014 from the Flint River, via pipes that have caused massive lead contamination, poisoning and sickening city residents.

Wow, the sheer incompetence and idiocy of the state government in Michigan is astounding and the fact that it is destroying the health of citizens is appalling. So, what are the how and why of this water crisis, how can it be fixed and how can we finally stop things like this from happening? As someone who was living in West Virginia during the chemical spill and water crisis of 2014, I am all too familiar with the blindness and greed of politicians and industry. We must move to get these things fixed ourselves and demand our own citizens driven solutions, because we can’t rely on paid off hacks for our protection, that’s for sure.

Let’s start with the “Emergency Manager” position, created and implemented by Governor Rick Scott. It is an austerity measure at heart, a way to usurp municipal control from cities in Michigan and install top down bureaucratic leadership beholden to the state government, and meant to slash city budgets, services and labor. The reason that this “Emergency Manager” switched Flint’s water supply from the Detroit municipal system to the Flint River was to “save money”. This was not a democratically made decision, there were no studies of the health and infrastructure impacts. It was rushed into and now people are paying the price, with water that has been polluted with lead for well over a year.

Lead. Yes, lead. A dangerous known carcinogen. You can read more about how bad lead is for the human body here. Highlights include,

The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children may include:

  • Developmental delay
  • Learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss

Here is a bit of a timeline of the situation up until the lead poisoning of Flint’s people is discovered:

“APRIL 2014: In an effort to save money, Flint begins drawing its water from the Flint River instead of relying on water from Detroit. The move is considered temporary while the city waits to connect to a new regional water system.Residents immediately complain about the smell, taste and appearance of the water. They also raise health concerns, reporting rashes, hair loss and other problems.

SUMMER 2014: Three boil-water advisories are issued in 22 days after positive tests for coliform bacteria.

OCTOBER 2014: A General Motors engine plant stops using Flint water, saying it rusts parts.

JANUARY 2015: Flint seeks an evaluation of its efforts to improve the water amid concerns that it contains potentially harmful levels of a disinfection byproduct. Detroit offers to reconnect Flint to its water system. Flint insists its water is safe.

JAN. 28: Flint residents snap up 200 cases of bottled water in 30 minutes in a giveaway program. More giveaways will follow in ensuing months.

FEB. 3: State officials pledge $2 million for Flint’s troubled water system.

FEBRUARY: A 40-member advisory committee is formed to address concerns over Flint’s water. Mayor Dayne Walling says the committee will ensure the community is involved in the issue.

MARCH 19: Flint promises to spend $2.24 million on immediate improvements to its water supply.

MARCH 27: Flint officials say the quality of its water has improved and that testing finds the water meets all state and federal standards for safety.

SEPT. 24: A group of doctors led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center urges Flint to stop using the Flint River for water after finding high levels of lead in the blood of children. State regulators insist the water is safe.”

Another good source of info that I found is linked here. This article reports that, “Eden Wells, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said recently that all children who drank the city’s water since April 2014 have been exposed to lead. That’s 8,657 children, based on Census data…There is no safe level of lead in the body, but the impacts of lead are considered most severe on the developing brains and nervous systems of children and fetuses. And even the 8,657 Flint children younger than six exposed to lead may be a low estimate; It doesn’t include unborn children whose mothers drank tainted water during their pregnancies, or children and pregnant women who reside outside Flint but were exposed while visiting relatives, childcare centers or hospitals inside city limits.”

You can also read about the plight of Flint resident here, in their own words.

Even noted filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore has jumped in to condemn this water crisis to proclaim, rightfully so, that, “This is a racial crime.” And he is completely right. Black lives do matter, as much as corporate capitalist America seems to think they do not. Flint, which is almost 60 percent black, is also a place where almost 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Would this situation happen in a white, wealthy area? Would it be acceptable? Would it still be ongoing?

For another good read on the racism in action in Flint, check out this article, “How a Racist System Has Poisoned the Water in Flint, Mich.” One important tid bit here is, “In the past decade, over half of African Americans in Michigan — compared with only 2 percent of whites — have lived under emergency management. EFMs are supposed to take over cities based on a neutral evaluation of financial circumstances — but majority-white municipalities with similar money problems have not been taken over.”

This story belies the entire history of the environmental justice movement in the U.S. and why it is still so necessary. For a little bit of history on that, check this out,

“The initial environmental justice spark sprang from a Warren County, North Carolina, protest. In 1982, a small, predominately African-American community was designated to host a hazardous waste landfill. This landfill would accept PCB-contaminated soil that resulted from illegal dumping of toxic waste along roadways. After removing the contaminated soil, the state of North Carolina considered a number of potential sites to host the landfill, but ultimately settled on this small African-American community.

In response to the state’s decision, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others staged a massive protest. More than 500 protesters were arrested, including Dr. Benjamin F, Chavis, Jr., from the United Church of Christ, and Delegate Walter Fauntroy, then a member of the United States House of Representatives from the District of Columbia. While the Warren County protest failed to prevent the siting of the disposal facility, it did provide a national start to the environmental justice movement.”

So, that brings me back to West Virginia. Sure, it is a pretty white area and not super diverse, although many historically black neighborhoods in Charleston were affected by the chemical spill of 2014 and ensuing water crisis. But, on the class side, the narrative is the same as Flint. Some stats to back that up include:

“West Virginia has the 10th highest poverty rate among the 50 states.”

“1 in 3 children under the age of 5 in West Virginia lived in poverty in 2013.”

So, do corrupt politicians and industrial polluters prey on poor areas and communities of color? What do you think? To me, it is seems obviously clear that they do and that it has to stop. Okay, so how do we begin to make that happen? Here are a couple of ongoing campaigns to support:

Here is one awesomely militant (for an online petition) online petition that you outta sign, to the Feds urging, “U.S. Department of Justice recently opened an investigation into how the governor handled the crisis. We are calling on the DOJ to consider the case a criminal investigation and to prosecute the governor accordingly.” Sign this like right now. This article here explains how, “As Water Problems Grew, Officials Belittled Complaints From Flint.” Disgusting bullshit.

Also, just contact ole Mr. Scott himself and let him know how you feel. That he needs to respond better and really help the people of Flint, apologize for the failed response so far, or resign if he cannot. Actually, he should just resign period.

Another good read on how to help out with the Flint situation can be found here.

And if you are still rightfully mad about the 2014 West Virginia chemical spill and the ensuing response, there is work to be done as well. Many groups, including West Virginia Citizen Action, are calling on the WV Public Service Commission to investigate the response of private water company, WV American Water. There is pressure for them to call off this investigation, so it is up to us to make sure this doesn’t happen and that justice is served. Sign here to do your part as well, and write a damn letter to editor, or contact your local representatives. For more background info, the forever great Ken Ward has a write up here in the WV Gazette-Mail.

And if you wanna take the whole damn system back, which is my prefered way to go, and out of the hands of inept private companies like WV American Water, go here to join that campaign at, an effort that I have previously written about here.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.