Community Activists Have Had Enough of ‘Flint Fatigue,’ Stage Protest at Michigan State Capitol on Fifth Anniversary
The city of Flint, Michigan, remains without clean water five years after residents’ water source had been changed, and activists staged a protest Thursday.
The protest was held at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing April 25, the day in 2014 that Flint switched the city’s water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River in an effort to cut costs. The Flint River’s different water chemistry corroded old supply pipes and leached lead into the water, contaminating the local population.
Since then, bottled water has remained a staple in homes throughout the city, which has seen little headway toward improving the water quality.
“There are people who think this issue has really been resolved,” Cynthia M. Lindsey, an attorney on the Flint Water Class Action Legal Team says to Fox 47. “I mean, some people say it’s Flint fatigue. Well, try living in the shoes of these residents. It’s not Flint fatigue for them. They live it every day. They still can’t drink the water, they can’t bathe with the water.”
Protesters also argued they have not seen any “accountability or justice” coming from the crisis.
Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist recognized the anniversary of the incident by holding a “Day of Service.” The politicians and a few cabinet directors met volunteers and community members to clean up Hasselbring Park as Flint’s water remains toxic.
State Press Secretary Tiffany Brown told MLive Thursday Whitmer has visited Flint on several occasions because of how much the city means to her.
“It’s to underscore her commitment,” Brown said. “The first step to build community trust is being present and that’s why she’s here.”
In 2016, charges began to be brought against officials in connection to the poisoning of residents who used the water after the switch to the Flint River. In total, 15 state and city officials face criminal charges for failing to do enough to prevent the crisis.
Recently, however, there has been some movement in righting the issue.
As part of a federal and state loan given to Flint in March 2017 under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016, the city was recently granted the remaining $77.7 million in federal funding to improve water infrastructure. However, Rob Bincsik, the city’s director of Public Works, made it clear the funds are not new but are instead part of what was already promised for local improvements.
“While we are grateful for this funding, it’s important to understand it’s not new funding,” he said. “The federal government awarded this funding and is utilizing the MDEQ’s Drinking Water Revolving Fund as the mechanism to disperse it to the City of Flint.”
The funding is set to contribute to replacing water mains and water meters as well as pay for the completion of a secondary water source pipeline and the establishment of a panel to oversee the city’s water quality.
Still, Bincsik said, “the water system needs in excess of another $300 million in capital improvements over the next 20 years.”