Flint Michigan Water Contamination
The water contamination issue in Flint Michigan, also known as the Flint Water crisis, is an issue revolving around the contamination of water meant for domestic consumption, which occurred in April 2014. The issue sprung up after the move by officials of Flint to change the city’s water source from its original source to a contaminated source, which was the Flint River. Upon the use of water from the new source, lead contamination was detected, and this created or exposed the residents of the area to adverse public health implications Understandably, water from Flint River was corrosive, and as such, it caused the leaching of lead and related material from the aging pipes into the water system, and this resulted in a significant increase in the levels of toxic materials such as neurotoxin. Since the use and detection of lead in Flint water, approximately 10000 children have had to deal with the challenge of consuming water contaminated with lead, and it is projected that this might have adverse impacts on the health in future. Research indicates that the percentage of people, especially children, with high blood-lead levels has increase significantly from around 2.5 percent in 2013 to over 5 percent in 2015. Another apparent effect of the move to use Flint water was the outbreak of the Legionnaire’s disease in Flint that killed around ten people and further affected 77 individuals.
Selection of a public administrative role
A key public administrator with a crucial decision-making responsibility in the issue of Flint Michigan water contamination was the Republican governor, Rick Snyder. He made several poor and inappropriate administrative executions that worsened the situation at hand rather than solving the same. First, he was instrumental in the nullification of free elections in Flint, which would have seen responsible and committed leaders take control of the issue at hand. Second, he played a part in the removal of the mayor of Flint and went ahead to appoint a man of his choice, with insufficient knowledge and experience to run and manage Flint as a city. This was seen as a move to do away with leaders who knew the ill motives behind the shift from Lake Huron to Flint River as a source of water for Michigan residents. Third, the worst decision taken by Governor Snyder at the time was to restrict Flint residents from using water from Lake Huron, which was a freshwater drinking source. Subsequently, upon the discovery of how Flint water was toxic, Snyder, and his entire administration did not pass or convey information to the general public about it in a move to cover up the level of damage that had been done to the residents of Flint city. Some of the adverse impacts covered up included the serious brain damage suffered by children, which as a result of consuming the lead contaminated water. Amidst these actions, Governor Snyder gave in to the demands of powerful companies such as General Motors, which demanded that the move to use Flint water be reversed. GM had raised concerns that Flint water caused the corrosion of their car parts as well as the destruction of other infrastructure. This saw the governor spend a significant amount of funds to ensure that GM reverted to the use of water from Lake Huron water while the rest of Flint residents were still kept on Flint River despite its adverse implications on health.
What I would have done as governor
As governor with administrative responsibility and control over the state of Michigan, I would have made acceptable and crucial decisions that would have prevented the exposure to lead witnessed in Flint city and other parts of Michigan State today (Shafritz & Hyde, 2011). My administrative decisions would be focused on equal treatment of the electorate rather than making decisions favoring only a section of the electorate (Simon, 1946). It is evident that when he was elected to the position of Governor in 2011, Snyder’s first major decision as an individual in a public administrative position was to impose a multi-billion-dollar tax break, which was passed by Republican legislative representatives favoring corporations and the wealthy individuals in the state. These legislations saw a significant reduction in the revenues collected from tax, which meant that reduction or cutting cost was imminent.
As expected of people in administrative positions, as the governor of Michigan, I would have heeded to calls and suggestions as well as listened to the opinions of other stakeholders (Wilson, 2001) regarding the need to add anti-corrosive substance to the water from Flint River. In this case, one of the strategies of cost cutting of reduction was to move the water source from Lake Huron and Detroit River to Flint River, which according to experts, was corrosive and contaminated with lead. According to Federal law, it is important that water moving from one place to another should contain additives that seal the lead into the pipes preventing it from leaching into the water moving through the pipes. Although it was estimated that this would cost approximately 100USD on a daily basis for three months translating to a total of $9,000, this was the perfect way of preventing the issue rather than ignoring it and later being forced to pay over $1.5 billion to fix or address the issue of Flint water contamination.
Further, as the governor of Michigan, I would not have made discriminative and selective decisions as expected of individuals in administrative positions (Grodzins, 1966). In this scenario, after the realization of Flint River water’s corrosiveness and other effects especially on health, as governor I would have pushed for the move of not only powerful companies such as GM but all residents of Flint to use Lake Huron water, which was used initially and minimal adverse impacts of the same were reported. Through this, the exposure of children to lead-contaminated water as witnessed today, as well as the Flint water contamination issue in entirety, would have been prevented.
In this case, as governor, I would have ensured that the privatization of water sources is done away with or regulating the amount of water sucked out of the ground by private companies such as Nestle thereby prioritizing the needs of other organizational members as is expected of people in administrative positions (Katz & Kahn, 2015). By prioritizing the needs of the residents of Michigan and regulating or doing away with the privatization, the state and local governments would have several fresh water source options and would not have to rely on the contaminated Flint River as a water source for the residents of Flint and Michigan in entirety, and this would have prevented the Flint water contamination issue, which has attracted national attention today. Without a doubt, other than the need to reduce or cut cost, one of the key reasons that prompted the move to use Flint River water was the minimal water sources. Reports indicate that the Governor’s allies such as Dennis Muchmore made key decisions on behalf of Flint residents. In fact, Dennis Muchmore played a crucial role in the privatization of water resources in Michigan, which meant that the public was left with only a few water sources, which were Lake Huron that was considered expensive and Flint River. For several years, under the watch of Dennis Muchmore, Nestle had repeatedly been sued for sucking extremely large amounts of fresh water out of the ground, which they later sold as their Ice Mountain brand of bottled spring water.
Moreover, to prevent the Flint water contamination conundrum, as governor and a person in an administrative position, I would have involved other key state officials and professionals in decision-making, which is a requirement for those in positions of public administration (Maslow, 1989). The outstanding fact in the Flint water contamination conundrum is that state officials, while under the watch of Snyder made a money-saving decision to switch the city’s water source and supply to Flint River, which was reported to contain high levels of lead and iron. According to Lawrence Larry Clark when speaking to an environmental leader, it is impossible to make financial decisions in a vacuum, which translates to making financial decisions without involving professionals. Clark with knowledge and experience in energy sustainability believes that the consideration of all technical factors before the state government’s decision to make the switch in water supplies would have helped prevent the water contamination issue. Clark argues that none of the state officials, including Governor Snyder, involved in making the critical decision on the switch of water sources had the technical training or knowledge on the impact of the move. As such, it is emphasized that elected or appointed federal, state, or local government officials should consult with professionals before making key decisions such as that made by Governor Snyder and his associates.
What I would do as governor going forward
As governor in this scenario, going forward, I would involve other stakeholders in critical decision-making such as increasing or intensifying calls for EPA reform (Shafritz & Hyde, 2011). According to several reports, EPA reform is crucial to the prevention of another Flint water crisis that is probable in other US cities such as Chicago, Washington, and Philadelphia, which use water-testing techniques that are seen to under-estimate levels of lead. With stringent EPA reform, consideration would be given to the water-testing techniques, and this would ensure that all cities get an early warning especially when lead levels rise to danger points. It is argued that after concerns had been raised about Flint water crisis, the EPA made a lethargic response to the same, and as such, it was seen to have played a role in the poisoning of Flint city’s water system as well as assaulting its population. The EPA reform would entail coming up with strategies for repairing and maintaining America’s infrastructure.
Also, going forward, as governor and a person in an administrative position, I would work in collaboration with other state governments and the federal government to increase lead exposure awareness among US residents (Taylor, 1947). It is important that individuals be made aware of the dangers or lead exposure from sources other than drinking water, which has been the point of focus in Flint city. For a long time, the dangers of lead have been ignored and assumed by federal, state, and local government officials through the lack of disclosure and release of liability. In fact, in cities such as Flint, new renters, and home buyers are not provided information concerning lead and its dangers, and with this, they are unlikely to know whether lead exists in a particular area or region. To prevent adverse impacts of lead on the US population, it is important that people are made aware of the existence of lead and its impacts. Through this, people are likely to go an extra mile to seek alternative water sources and materials that are not contaminated with lead, thereby reducing the adverse implications resulting from the consumption and use of lead-contaminated materials.
Moreover, moving forward, it would be my responsibility as governor and that of other state and federal government officials to ensure that residents and the entire US population are aware of the unintended consequences of lead exposure (Shafritz & Hyde, 2011). Making people aware of the unintended consequences of lead exposure involves ensuring that people especially water utility customers know the benefits of removing lead service lines, how to determine if they have lead service lines, as well as the necessary steps to protect themselves and families from lead exposure. Of course, the move such as that made by Governor Snyder to shift the water source from Lake Huron to Flint River led to the occurrence of unintended consequences. Thus, it is mandatory that going forward; authorities should ensure that water systems are alert to these potential issues, put in place plans to address them, and ensure that the general population is made aware and prepared for the unintended consequences.
Briefly, as noted above, Flint water crisis, which started in April 2014, is one of the hotly debated issues in the US today given its adverse impacts on the health of children and US infrastructure. The issue in itself sprung up after the move by officials of Flint to change the city’s water source from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. Several public administrators were involved in the poor decision-making that resulted in the crisis, one of them being the governor of the State of Michigan, who made several poor and inappropriate administrative executions that worsened the situation at hand rather than solving the same. However, as governor of Michigan and as a person in a public administrative position, I would have taken necessary administrative steps to solve the Flint Water contamination problem. First, as governor, I would have no alternative but to prioritize the needs of every stakeholder by heeding to their calls and suggestions on the addition of the anti-corrosive element to the water from Flint River (Shafritz & Hyde, 2011). Second, after the realization of Flint River water’s corrosiveness and other effects especially on health, as governor and a person in a public administrative position, I would push for equality among residents by pushing for the move of not only powerful companies such as GM but all residents of Flint to use Lake Huron water, which was used initially and minimal adverse impacts of the same were reported. Third, as governor, I would ensure that the privatization of water sources is done away with or regulating the amount of water sucked out of the ground by private companies such as Nestle (Shafritz & Hyde, 2011). Fourth, to prevent the occurrence of the problem, I would have worked closely or involved other stakeholders or professionals in decision making, which is expected of every person in a position of public administration. Going forward, to avoid the reoccurrence of a similar problem, as governor, I would ensure that every person is involved in decision-making aimed at increasing or intensifying calls for EPA reform, and this would be coupled with increasing lead exposure awareness among US residents and making them aware of the unintended consequences of lead exposure. Of course, it would be my responsibility as the person in charge of Flint City, to ensure that the needs and demands are met, and thus, making them aware of the possible consequences of lead contamination would be a way of meeting their health and physical demands.
Grodzins, M. (1966). The American system: A new view of government in the United States. Transaction Publishers.
Katz, D., & Kahn, R. L. (2015). Organizations and the System Concept. Classics of Organization Theory, 347.
Maslow, A. H. (1989). A theory of human motivation. Readings in managerial psychology, 20-35.
Shafritz, J. M., & Hyde, A. C. (2011). Classics of Public Administration. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Simon, H. A. (1946). The proverbs of administration. Public Administration Review, 6(1), 53-67.
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Wilson, W. (2001). The Study of Administration. Public Management: Critical Perspectives on Business and Management, 2(2), 54.