The drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan has turned into an epidemic of environmental injustices. Flint, a city that is 57% African American, 37% White American, 4% Latino, and 4% mixed race sits about 68 miles northwest of Detroit. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and President Obama have both declared a state of emergency because of the deadly lead contamination in the drinking water. Flint switched from Detroit’s water system to pulling water from the Flint River to cut costs. The corrosive water leached lead from the city’s old pipes and into the homes of residents. Lead has proven to be highly toxic, particularly to children.
About 9,000 Flint children have been exposed to lead. At low levels, lead can lower a child’s IQ and cause learning and behavioral problems. At very high levels, drinking lead can cause kidney damage, seizures or death. Lead exposure in children moves into soft tissue like their liver, lungs, brain, and kidney, then settles in their bones. From then on, a child may test negative even though there is lead lodged in their body.
To worsen an already tragic situation, some state-run bottled water dispensaries that have been set up in order to provide residents with free bottled water for drinking, cooking and bathing have been requiring an ID. Undocumented immigrants in the state of Michigan are unable to obtain driver licenses, and since an ID may be required to obtain bottled water, it leaves undocumented families without the same help other residents are receiving. Requiring an ID also hinders the homeless from receiving water.
Maria, an undocumented Spanish speaking immigrant in Flint, has been drinking the lead contaminated water until a week ago, because she had not heard about the lead contamination. Very few resources have been released to notify Spanish speaking residents of the contamination and the dangers. Undocumented immigrants like Maria are also fearful to ask for water filters and bottled water because of the recent deportations in Michigan.
Saint Mary’s Church located on the East side of Flint where most undocumented immigrants live is giving bottled water and filters to anyone in need for free, no questions asked. They even have volunteers going door-to-door in the neighborhoods where most undocumented folks reside. If you would like to donate to help the church to continue to help those desperately in need, you can make a check payable to “Saint Mary Parish” and mail it to 2500 N. Franklin Avenue, Flint, Michigan, 48506. To read more about the situation, click here.