Sunday, January 24, 2016

Horror in Flint, Michigan

Lead contamination in water is a frequently encountered problem in India. We seem to have developed immunity to it. Lead is a dangerous metal to ingest. It causes severe developmental problems in children. It also results in pneumonia for all age groups.

Lead poisoning has now become a story of horror in Flint city in Michigan state of the US. Flint is the birthplace of General Motors and also United Auto Workers. It has a dwindling population because of economic crisis. Its 100,000 population is mainly African-American. Its per capita income is very low.

Michigan's Governor is a Republican who is obviously not popular in a largely Democratic city like Flint. The city is facing a financial crisis and looking for ways to control public expenditure.

The city was buying water from Detroit till sometime in 2014. To avoid spending on water, the city decided to start using water from a local river, also called Flint. Water from this river has a high level of chloride which is highly corrosive. This water caused corrosion of water pipes and this led to presence of abnormal levels of lead in the tap water for the public in Flint city.

The public was quick to identify the toxicity in tap water, but civic authorities were hidebound and refused to heed. When the scandal became unmanageable, the Republican Governor  apologised. The city has reverted to purchasing water from Detroit.

That something like this can happen in a developed country like the US  only proves the universalisation of misgovernance.

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