Attempting to Understand the Flint Water Crisis

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Mar 9, 2016

Guest Contributor

The seventh U.S. Democratic Debate was broadcast from Flint, Mich, Sunday night to spotlight the city’s ongoing health emergency. Residents of Flint have been living with a lead-contaminated water supply since 2014 because of a decision to divert the city’s water source to the Flint River in an effort to conserve money.

Both Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the issue head-on, calling at once for the state’s Republican Senator to resign over his mishandling of the crisis.

“I know the state of Michigan has a rainy day fund for emergencies, what is more important than the health and well-being of the people, particularly children?” Clinton asked. “It is raining lead in Flint, and the state is derelict in not coming forward with the money that is required.”

Though the candidates were both pointed in their criticism, the most impactful moment of the debate was when Mikki Wade, a public housing program manager and mother of two, described her experience living without access to clean water.

“The water has impacted our lives in such a way that living comfortably in our home isn’t the same anymore,” she said. “The constant drives to pick up water just so my children can wash their hair, to wash our fruits and vegetables, and to brush our teeth is incredibly difficult. Once the pipes are replaced, I’m not so sure I would be comfortable ever drinking the water.”

After the debate, I started thinking about my daily routine and how it would be affected by poisoned water I couldn’t drink or touch. Below is an average account of my daily dependence on water and if it looks anything close to yours, it might provide some food for thought:

  1. Brush my teeth
  2. Wash my face
  3. Brush daughter’s teeth
  4. Rinse morning bottle
  5. Refill daughter’s water bottle for breakfast
  6. Mix daughter’s oatmeal with water
  7. Wash fruit for breakfast
  8. Rinse towel to wipe down daughter’s high chair
  9. Make coffee for myself
  10. Wash fruit/veggies for lunch
  11. Refill daughter’s water bottle for afternoon
  12. Wash vegetables for dinner
  13. Boil rice/potatoes/pasta for dinner
  14. Drink water with dinner
  15. Refill daughter’s water bottle for dinner
  16. Rinse towel to wiped down high chair and dinner table
  17. Rinse dishes
  18. Run dishwasher
  19. Rinse evening bottle
  20. Bathe daughter
  21. Brush daughter’s teeth
  22. Fill daughter’s humidifier
  23. Shower
  24. Brush my teeth

I do not pretend to understand what the residents of Flint are going through in this moment or what they’ve been forced to endure for nearly two years. Watching Sunday’s debate simply put into perspective how much I take for granted having access to clean water and how difficult it would be to live without it.

I hope the brave people of Flint receive the justice they deserve and that all those whose health has been impacted – from infants to the elderly – make a swift and complete recovery.



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