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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/9/15

Flint, MI: The Making of A U.S. Sacrifice Zone

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"No community, rich or poor, urban or suburban, black, brown, red, white, or yellow should be allowed to become an environmental sacrifice zone." ~ Dr. Robert Bullard

For the past 18 months, Flint residents have complained about the quality of their water and suspected health effects. They complained of hair loss, skin rashes, and even vomiting after drinking the water. Although their concerns were mainly disregarded by state and city officials, a study by researchers at Flint's Hurley Medical Center substantiated their escalating fears and gave their plight national attention. This study along with water analysis by a Virginia Tech professor, and a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), provided empirical evidence of rising child blood lead levels and revealed overlooked records of high lead levels in the City's drinking water.

A wealth of research shows that even a small amount of lead in a child's body can cause serious health problems. Studies have demonstrated lead's compromising effects on the immune system and association with impairments in neurobehavioral factors such as a child's learning skills, hearing, and self-regulatory ability resulting in delinquent behavior.

According to the filed petition, Flint's drinking water also tested positive for total coliform, an indicator of possible sewage and fecal contamination. It is further noted that the City's treatment of the water to address the coliform resulted in elevated levels of total trihalomethanes (TTHM), a byproduct of disinfection associated with liver, kidney, central nervous system problems, and increased risk of cancer.

The assertions contained within the petition tell of Flint's water issues beginning after residents were moved from their water source of over fifty years, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, to an inadequately examined water source and delivery system from the Flint River. This decision was at the helm of numerous and differing emergency managers, appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to fix Flint's budget problems, and done so while neighboring areas remained on the treated and safe water source.

The "budget fix" tactics that have forced Flint's young children to drink lead-laced water can contribute to their lower academic performance. Academic performance is a primary measure used to initiate "state school districts" or state takeover of MI schools. Additionally, recent news reports state that parents are pulling their children from Flint Public Schools at a loss of 300 more students than initially projected. This decline in enrollment would lead to a loss in school revenue and a greater budget deficit making it easier for a state takeover of Flint Public Schools.

While Flint's poisonous water has shed light on callous decisions that continue to risk the health and well-being of our most vulnerable Michigan citizens, other low-income children are also casualties of such policies. After more than six years of a failed state-takeover style of governance, Detroit Public Schools' finances and academic outcomes have worsened, with a destabilized education system, decreased academic outcomes, and increased deficit, upward of $335 million.

Governor Snyder, through executive orders and proposed legislation, continues an attempt to extend policies and an autocratic form of governance that usurps local control and power from Michigan residents. This is a formula for the making of a U.S. sacrifice zone, where costs are cut, budgets are balanced, and profits are made at the expense of the health and well being of our children, especially our children living in low-income families.

(Article changed on October 9, 2015 at 21:18)

(Article changed on October 9, 2015 at 21:20)

 

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Dr. Pamela Pugh was elected to the Michigan State Board of Education in 2014. She is the owner of Regeneration LLC, a business which serves as a catalyst for economically sustainable and healthy urban communities by assisting public agencies, (more...)
 

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Flint, MI: The Making of A U.S. Sacrifice Zone