The Flint Water Saga Continues

Lessons learned from the Flint water crisis; and as if the city wasn’t hit hard enough by toxic water, now it’s awash in plastic.
Feb 9, 2016 8:00 AM ET

The Flint water crisis has uncovered the most ignoble aspects of human decision making and a complete indifference to an already marginalized community.

It also exposed the blatant neglect of existing environmental regulations—namely, the Federal Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Water Quality Act. If the Flint River had been managed according to regulations, perhaps the lead water crisis could have been avoided entirely.

The catastrophe shines a spotlight on our country’s aging infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that it will take approximately $3.6 trillion to update essential national infrastructure by 2020, with $1 trillion of that needed to replace US water pipes.

Detroit is not alone in its lead pipe problem, and it would not be surprising if other jurisdictions encountered similar water contamination calamities in the near future. The melting infrastructure in many eastern cities should have been replaced 20 years ago. “Most communities have waited until the end of the life cycles, and all of the bills are coming to roost at once,” says Yeadon, PA mayor Rohan Hepkins.

The only silver lining from the entire fiasco is the increased national awareness about the danger of lead pipe exposure. Michael Stefkovic, CEO of lead testing firm Environmental Testing Services, said in an interview with Environmental Leader, “The same lead that is found in Flint’s drinking water also exists in hidden forms located in many homes. Too often the dangers of lead are down played through disclosure and release of liability. New renters and homebuyers are provided information concerning lead and its dangers without knowing if it actually exists. It is a common practice to ‘play dumb’ on behalf of landlords and home sellers in the housing industry relating to the presence of lead. Renters and homebuyers normally sign releases accepting liability on lead present. Homes built prior to 1978 are assumed to have lead in certain painted surfaces. Unless testing is preformed the occupant will never know.”