Sample Environmental Studies Paper on Water Pollution

Sample Environmental Studies Paper on Water Pollution

It is believed that the federal government of United States is very concerned about the health of its citizens. The water that the people of the country drink is obtained from streams, lakes, rivers, and groundwater. The water is usually treated to eliminate potential threats such as bacteria and water-borne diseases. The Flint water crisis was a great revelation of the hidden issues that the U.S. government faced in Michigan in its efforts to ensure the health of its citizens. The water pollution that took place in Michigan affected several people in the state. Essentially, it put individuals in great danger, especially children whose blood lead levels significantly increased after consuming the contaminated water (Ganim and Tran 1). Flint water crisis mattered because it was as a result of negligence from the local and federal government as they decided to cut down costs of operation at the expense of the residents of Flint thus putting their lives at great risk and this is analyzed below.

With the advent and establishment of the successful General Motors plant, Flint became one of the flourishing cities in the U.S. during the early 1980s. . However, with the eventual downfall of the company, the city also started to bear the consequences of the economic crunch that followed. The government understood that the Flint River acted as the primary water source in the city for decades. By changing the water source to Lake Huron with the intention of purchasing the water supply to use the money to save the economy of the state was a decision made out of negligence (Campbell et al. 951). It is because the country government was only concerned about the economy, but at the expense of the health and lives of the people. At the same time, the Flint River was known by the residents for its filth, yet the government went ahead and made it the source of water in the state. Though the state was struggling financially, it was wrong to switch the water source to a polluted river. It did not take long after the shift took place for the residents of Flint to start feeling the effects.

The water started to taste funny and had a bad smell which both which were repulsive. At the same time, the water running in the taps turned brown, which made the people suspect that something was seriously wrong. Indeed, people thought that it had been contributed by the poor sewage system. However, after scientific tests were conducted on the water when the number of people that fell ill increased, it was revealed that the main cause of the change in the color of the water was iron. According to a report released by Virginia Tech, the Flint River was indeed affected and was highly corrosive (Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers 1). The rate of corrosion was 19 times higher compared to the supply from Lake Huron.

The residents of Flint filed a lawsuit emphasizing negligence as the main reason for water contamination in their city. The state Department of Environmental Quality came to the realization that the water from Flint River was not being treated as expected (Ganim and Tran 1). Based on this fact, the Flint government was found to have violated the federal law, which was a significant indicator of inattention that could have been avoided. In the end, the residents of Flint were greatly affected by consuming water that was contaminated with iron. It is one of the reasons that the water had turned brown (Campbell et al. 951). Since the water was not being treated, the situation worsened. For instance, in Flint, almost all service lines made of lead leached into the water sources. However, it took two years for the state and city officials to act after the people complained. All the grievances that were made were refuted by the state government claiming that everything was fine. Dayne Walling, the former Mayor of Flint, was even brave enough to claim on national television that there was nothing wrong with the water in Flint (Ganim and Tran 1).

The worst part of negligence was that nothing was done by the state government to identify the basis of the claims whether they were true or false. According to Ganim and Tran, memo that was leaked after the issue of Flint crisis came to light showed that Rick Snyder who was the governor of Michigan had been informed about the quality of water in the Flint supply, but like Dayne, he asserted that the problem would fade away on its own with time (Ganim and Tran 1).It was not legitimate for him to believe that because the residences of Flint had evidence to show that the water crisis was bad especially the smell that did not seem to go away.  At the same time, he did not provide any concrete evidence to convince the residence that the problem would fade away. However, the residents were not satisfied; they were not only concerned about the color of the water, but they made it clear in the memo that the water also tasted and smelled funny. Snyder responded to these claims by mentioning the Safe Drinking Water Act which did not regulate the values of water, and thus he could not be held accountable for any dispute regarding the water quality. Pitt McGehee and Rivers also mentioned that the other issue that was touched on the memo was the potential health risks that the quality of water at Flint would cause. It means that the people were better concerned about the public health than the government which proves the latter’s negligence in regards to taking care of the people. The corrosion that was evidently occurring was not approved; however, the memo continued to mention that though the color of the water was not a quality indicator, all the residents of Flint felt that they did not like the manner in which it tasted.

While responding to the issues raised in the memo and emails, Snyder’s spokesman, David Murray mentioned that the governor was not aware of the water pollution severity, especially concerning lead (Felton and Woolf 1). This was after a researcher who came from Virginia Tech decided to conduct a home-test examination on one of the sick children to determine the main cause of the skin conditions that did not seem to go away. It is through this test that it was revealed how much danger the people of Flint were being exposed, which  could have been prevented by the government acting responsibly (Hanna-Attisha et l 1). However, the state officials also refuted this research claiming that theirs was more valid than the one in question. In the end, it was proven that the researchers were accurate in their study of Flint water. Certainly, this demonstrates that the Michigan government was highly careless and negligent while analyzing the reasons behind the water turning into brown and smelling awful.

The EPA employees also noted that it took the Michigan environmental department several months to respond to their calls for attention to deal with the issue of high lead levels in their water (Sellers 1). During this period, the people of Flint continued to use the same water because they did not have an alternative water source. They further remained exposed to more danger because of the high lead content in the water. According to Dingle, numerous studies have revealed that there is no amount of lead level that is safe for consumption because it has no function in the human body (Dingle 1). Lead intake is synonymous to poison consumption, and the effects can be long-lasting. The therapy that can be used to remove all the lead in the body is also expensive though the effects cannot be resolved.

Additionally, the age of a person also plays a crucial role; the risk of lead poisoning is higher in young individuals than in adults. This is the reason why majority of those who first became sick in Flint were children. Dr. Mona who conducted a thorough medical examination on the ailing children realized that the lead in their blood had doubled; in case they had continued to drink the water, it was possible for the level of the element to triple (Felton and Woolf 1). Whenever someone consumes lead, it moves directly to the blood and ends up affecting the entire body system. Lead can also be stored in the teeth, bones, and soft tissues in the body (Hanna-Attisha et al. 1). All these facts reveal the kind of danger that the people of Flint had exposed themselves to; the children who were already affected by the lead consumption could still be experiencing health problems today. It is quite sad that the federal government failed to take the issue seriously subjecting several people to various health risks which could have easily been avoided if the government did not neglect the matter raised by the public. It also shows that the crisis in Flint was escalated by the fact that the authorities did not act immediately to protect its public from the water that was already toxic.

The emails revealed that it took the EPA a week to debate on the scope of the problem, especially the role that they were supposed to play as an agency (Sellers 1). The worst mistake that they made was reassuring the people of Flint that the waters were safe for drinking regardless of its brown color and bad smell. The federal officials should have also realized that the Michigan officials were not in a position to solve the environmental disaster which was already developing in Flint. Several experts who were looking into the crisis revealed that it was possible for the water pollution to have been circumvented easily. The specialists realized that the state only required $100 per day to have the Flint River cleaned (Felton and Woolf 1). They needed to use an anticorrosive agent to treat it before it could have been pumped to the homes or houses for usage. Through this, the people could have been assured that they were drinking clean water regardless of the color. However, the government of Flint was just urging people to continue drinking the water without taking any proper or immediate action. According to Kennedy, government dodged all of the blames addressed by the people and by Dr. Mona calling her hysterical (Kennedy 1). It means that the government did not want to be accountable for the massive health risks that they had exposed the people of Flint to when they encouraged them to continue using the contaminated water.

Counterargument

However, there are those who have objected the fact that the crisis in Flint was a result of negligence from the government. They claim that the water pollution at Flint was an issue that affected the United States and Europe in the 1890s and 1900s. They insisted that Flint water crisis was just among the many effects of the lead poisoning that had occurred in the nation earlier, thus the federal government should not be held responsible for the damage that was caused.  Ganim and Tran believed that the Flint crisis could not have been avoided. They give reference to the same case in Lowell, Massachusetts which was much worse than the Flint state. The possible solution to the problem include: the state government could have responded to the peoples complain in time instead of ignoring them; they should have acted immediately by inspecting the water to determine the reason for the bad smell and the sudden change in water color. Through this, the water crisis could have been avoided.

In conclusion, the root of the Flint water crisis was negligence because the state government wrongly thought it was best to cut down costs in the state by changing the River which was used by the people of Flint for everyday consumption. However, it ignored the fact that the Flint River was contaminated. Additionally, the government failed to treat the water that was pumped into the homes of its people. The concerned authorities were also to blame for ignoring the complaints of the people and for compelling them to continue using the poisonous water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

Campbell, Carla., Greenberg, Rachael., Mankikar, Deepa and Ross, Ronald. “A case study of environmental injustice: The failure in Flint.” Int J Environ Res Public Health vol 10 no. 13 (2016), 951. Accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5086690/

Dingle, Adrian. “The Flint water crisis: What’s really going on?” ACS. Accessed from https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters/past-issues/2016-2017/december-2016/flint-water-crisis.html.

Felton, Ryan, and Woolf, Nicky. “Flint water crisis: Emails reveal governor Snyder informed of problems a year ago.” The Guardian Accessed from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/21/flint-water-crisis-emails-reveal-governor-snyder-informed-of-problems-a-year-ago.

Ganim, Sara, and Tran, Linh. “How tap water became toxic in Flint, Michigan.” CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/11/health/toxic-tap-water-flint-michigan/. Accessed 13 Jan 2016.

Hanna-Attisha, Mona., LaChance, Jenny., Sadler, Richard. And Schnepp, Allison. “Elevated blood levels in children associated with the Flint drinking water crisis.” AJPH. Accessed from http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2015.303003 Accessed 21 Nov, 215.

Kennedy, Merrit. “Lead-laced water in Flint: A step-by-step look at the makings of a crisis.” NPR. Accessed from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/20/465545378/lead-laced-water-in-flint-a-step-by-step-look-at-the-makings-of-a-crisisAccessed 20 April 2016.

Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers. “Million lawsuit against US government for EPA’s negligence in city’s water.” CISION PR Newswire. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/flint-residents-file-772-million-lawsuit-against-us-government-for-epas-negligence-in-citys-water-crisis-300399320.html. Accessed 31 Jan 2017.

Sellers, Christopher. The Flint water Crisis: A Special Edition Environment and Health Roundtable. Accessed 4 Feb 2016. http://edgeeffects.net/flint-water-crisis/