In a last minute effort to avoid a federal government shutdown last month, the House of Representatives approved $170 million in funding for communities like Flint that have been affected by contaminated drinking water. This comes more than a year after the official announcement of elevated lead toxicity in Flint’s water supply, after which lawmakers have been struggling to agree on a solution between the House and Senate. Though funding is approved and some state officials have been criminally charged, justice remains to be seen for residents still relying on bottled water—the city’s water is still not safe to drink, and thousands of children are at risk of illness due to high levels of lead exposure..
According to the World Health Organization, “the neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible..” Many residents tested positively for lead poisoning and experienced hair loss, rashes, nausea and a variety of other complications due to lead and high chemical concentrations in the water. One solution is to remove the lead service lines that are the source for the contaminated water. In the meantime government officials and social service organizations have recommended drinking bottled water, installing filters, and using baby wipes instead of showering.. As a result of the fear of chemical exposure by washing, Flint is now facing an outbreak of Shigellosis, a bacterial infection that spreads when people don’t wash their hands.
A recent federal court order in response to a lawsuit filed by the National Resources Defense Council and the American Civil Liberties Union will provide at least some temporary relief. The State and City must begin to provide home deliveries of bottled water beginning mid-December – or ensure that every household has an NSF-certified filter properly installed and maintained.
About 40 percent of its residents live under the poverty level, rendering Flint one of the poorest cities in the U.S. Though the city’s crisis is unrivaled, these social, political and environmental factors exist elsewhere, making it possible for similar events to unfold in other regions across America. Flint is a city from which lawmakers could learn. What follows is a timeline of the dangerous combination of environmental racism and government oversight, particularly when state appointed officials switched Flint’s water supply in an effort to save money, resulting in the public health catastrophe that is now costing millions of dollars to save lives. -
This visual timeline was created by Nursing@USC, the online family nurse practitioner program at the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. The program prepares family nurse practitioners to treat physical and behavioral health, address social and environmental factors, and lead positive social change.