Flint, Michigan has made world news for a sad reason. In a temporary cost-cutting measure, authorities switched the city’s watersupply from Lake Huron (via Detroit) to the Flint River, known to contain corrosive minerals. Absent filters or other safeguards, river water coursed though antiquated pipes, leeching out lead. Residents noticed immediately: smell, color and taste had changed. A similar crisis, with a healthier solution, caused Rome‘s response to degradation of the Tiber River; aqueducts were built to bring safe water to the city. Flint health experts including pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha noted an increase in illness in children whose tests revealed the presence of lead. But it would be over a year until action was taken. Blame might be shared by many; response after the fact is problematic. Plumbing can be changed; water can be filtered; but what about those whose health is now threatened, perhaps for many years in the future? Medical treatment for 6,000 to 12,000 children affected is estimated at $100 million. Temporary measures: filters, bottled water? $28 million. Cost of fixing the aging pipes? $1.5 billion. Such costs, most seriously the health of a new generation, could have been avoided. As Flint rebuilds, might leaders create a regional water resource, connected to the Great Lakes, perhaps modeled upon England’s New River, to bring healthy drinking water, and greenway exercise paths, with a new vision for Michigan?
Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License