Eight years ago, the state government in Michigan was forced to take over the financial affairs of the city of Flint, which had fallen on hard times and been run into the ground through ineptitude and gross mismanagement.
In what was deemed a cost-saving move, officials decided to build a new pipeline to deliver water from Lake Huron. Meantime, the city turned to the Flint River as its source.
Not long after the switch, residents began noticing something odd with the water: It looked, smelled and tasted funny. It would later be determined that it contained dangerous levels of lead, which can, and did, lead to a plethora of health issues. Twelve people died after more than 80 people were infected with Legionnaires’ disease.
The sight of residents in the largely black community lining up for bottled water became worldwide news. There was outrage over the fact that in the 21st century, Americans couldn’t count on getting access to water that was safe. It took a few years before the people of Flint could once again count on that.
In 2017, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission issued a report linking the scandal to systemic racism. The study presented the view that the response to the crisis would have been much different had it occurred in a wealthier, white city.
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