|Attorney General Bill Schuette takes questions after announcing new charges against two high-ranking state health officials in the fourth round of criminal charges in the Flint drinking water crisis on Wednesday June 14, 2017 during a press conference at Riverfront Banquet Center in downtown Flint. Photo: Detroit Free Press|
Is justice in the waters of Flint, Michigan?
Since 2014 the residents of the small Michigan town have been forced to bathe, cook, and drink bottled water exclusively. That year, the decision was made to change the water source from a Detroit water company to the Flint River. Despite warnings of crumbling, toxic pipes, and improperly treated water, city officials gave the switch the go ahead. Their motive? Money.
That same year, the amount of lead in the waters of Flint reached toxic levels. This issue has been widely reported and the main focus of the story, but not much has been done to prosecute anyone. The fact is, lead poisoning is treatable.
Legionnaires, however, is the undercover story, and the more serious disease. According to the Mayo Clinic website, it’s caused by bacteria which was found in the Flint water supply and can cause respiratory failure, septic shock, and acute kidney failure. Legionnaires is especially fatal in adults over the age of 50.
In 2014, an outbreak of Legionnaire’s, stemming from the water in the river hit Genesee County, where Flint is located. Ten people contracted and consequently died of Legionnaire’s. Dozens more were infected.
Recent documentation proves that the city not only knew that there was an outbreak of Legionnaires which had likely been caused by the poisonous pipes, they decided to withhold that information from the citizens of Flint for a full year.
Many were upset by the lack of action over the last three years, but it seems as though the other shoe has finally fallen. Five city officials were charged with manslaughter, the most serious charges that have been brought.
Since January 2016, when the court proceedings started, eleven people, mostly government are facing a total of 48 criminal charges. The five who are faced with manslaughter are looking at 15 years in prison.
It feels good to know that someone is looking out for the residents of Flint and that for once, justice is being served for a community of primarily Black and Brown people. The population of Flint is almost 60% Black. It’s rare that communities of color receive any justice at all for crimes committed against them big or small.
These very serious charges brought forth a small ray of hope in an otherwise bleak situation, but as people of color, we can’t just sit back as if all is good in Flint. Charges or no charges, the residents still need clean water. This crime was committed against people, families, children.
We have to continue the call for justice, just as loudly as the call for correction. It’s just as important to save citizens as it is to persecute criminals.