What's the Matter with Michigan?
What's the Matter with Michigan?
When you live on the East Coast, you hear national and world news in profusion. One of the most shocking for those of us who worked in environmental engineering for nearly twenty five years, was the Flint, Michigan water crisis that began in 2014.
Michigan is not the only state with lead problems in potable water. These problems chiefly arise from aging state and municipal piping systems that have not been replaced.
Metal piping in homes and municipalities installed before 1986 are most likely to have lead and/or lead solder in their composition.
As these piping systems age, the internal surfaces begin to erode and the lead in them is carried into groundwater and leaches into soil with each rain event.
Safe Drinking Water and Regulatory Compliance Agencies
In most major cities, there are wastewater and sewage treatment plants that are governed by state and federal regulations. This is how residents are protected from dangerous leachate that enters rivers and streams.
In some states, there is even a third reporting link which may be at the county level. known as the Municipal Utilities Authority.
Bad Decision Making in Michigan Erupts into a Crisis
Michigan borders 4 of the 5 Great Lakes from which much of Michigan's tourism is derived. In addition, there are about 67,000 inland lakes throughout this state as can be noted on any map of the state.
It is most notably home to the U.S. biggest auto industry in Detroit. The auto industry has a rich history that includes:
In 1904, local entrepreneur, William Durant was brought in to manage Buick, which became the largest manufacturer of automobiles by 1908. In 1908, Durant founded the now world famous, General Motors, filing incorporation papers in New Jersey, with headquarters in Flint. Durant experienced financial ruin in the stock market crach of 1929 . He died in 1947.
According to history books, Flint's mayors, David Cuthbertson and William McKeighan were targeted for recall twice. Recall supporters in both cases were jailed by the police.
Cuthbertson apparently angered the KKK in that state when he appointed a Catholic to his local cabinet.
Historical Michigan Militancy
In its history with the KKK, Michigan, there have been militant groups in this state such as:
. The lynching in 1866 of John Taylor, an 18 year old lynched by a mob of hundreds of white Ingham County residents who hanged the 18-year-old farmhand.
. Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s
. Followers of Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s
. Anti-Communists and the John Birch Society in the post–World War II era
. More recently members of the Michigan Militia who first appeared in the 1990s
More recently, hundreds of protesters swarmed their capital, some armed with rifles to denounce the state's stay-at-home orders. While at the same time, lawmakers and the state's governor faced off in a battle over the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Michigan Matter at Hand
With its militant history, the Flint Michigan Water Crisis is solely due to the bad decision making of former Republican Governor, Rick Snyder, decided to switch this city's drinking water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in a cost-saving move.
In addition,inadequate treatment and testing of the water resulted in a series of major water quality and health issues for Flint residents, issues this state chronically ignored, overlooked, and discounted by government officials
Complaints mounted and were ignored even when foul-smelling, discolored and off-tasting water piped into Flint homes for 18 months caused skin rashes, hair loss, and itchy skin.
Racial Bias in Flint?
It should be noted that the city of Flint, Michigan according to the U.S. Census Bureau of 2019, is 53% Black and 39% white.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission, a state-established body, concluded that the poor governmental response to the Flint crisis was a “result of systemic racism.”
Further studies later revealed the contaminated water was also contributing to a doubling, and in some cases, tripling, of the incidence of elevated blood lead levels in Flint's children, imperiling the health of its youngest generation.
It is only when faced with brutal facts and refusal to allow further bias in this state that this water crisis forced officials to deal with the realities that saving money on water treatment at the risk to children's lives cannot be allowed.
In a recent report 6 years after this water crisis, Snyder refused to allow Karen Weaver, then mayor of Flint, to meet with Representative Elijah Cummings who headed the federal House committee on the discovery of lead and other bacteria in Flint's drinking water.
Several watchdog groups uncovered Michigan's governor's payoffs, silencing of a whistleblower, a shady financial deal and a coverup presided over entirely by Snyder.
Does Michigan Learn from Its Past?
With its dark history of racism, militants and bias, it is difficult to balance ignoring the deliberate sickening of children by a former governor and protesters in Michigan's capital against public safety measures enforced by the current Governor Whitmer.
The optics for this state are bad. Seeing masked middle aged men with semi automatics in their hands is a reminder of all of those photos of al Qaeda during the war in Iraq.
Of what value are the lives of children in Michigan if their immune systems are already compromised by lead and now they are to be exposed to a deadly virus?
To hear the Michigan protesters tell it in their viral posts, the only thing that matters is getting back to work.
The matter at hand is one some states refuse to recognize: reliance on a single industry in any state is not going to be there when an epidemic of the Corona Virus proportion strikes. That's a no brainer.
No one is to blame for this virus. Unless of course, there is a way to get even with Mother Nature. Nature created this virus and nature will end it. Not protesters in a hurry to further risk the lives of little children.
When men and women are not intelligent enough to know how to survive under the worst circumstances, that is a matter for THEIR consciences, not ours.