The declaration of independence, which lays out a thoroughly detailed list of inalienable rights endowed upon all people also includes a short-list: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If any of these three are to be violated, obstructed or denied the people have the right to alter or abolish their government.
Such is the case in Flint, Michigan.
The governorship and state officials have been in complete dereliction of duty by failing to protect their constituents’ water supply from lead contamination.
Not only has the governor Rick Snyder been slow to act on this state of emergency, but he and his office have both failed to disclose the severity of the situation and to uphold the guarantees of three essential rights. More so the people have been denied one of the most basic tenants of human life: water.
The crisis in Flint, which starting over a year ago in April 2014, began when the city was switched over from the treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to Flint River water, a source which due to crumbling infrastructure and lack of treatment had become contaminated with lead over time.
State officials receive notification of the possibility of contamination but waited months before informing the public.
This is a human rights issue above all. The people of the United States have come to expect drinkable water as it is a right, not a privilege. However, negligence, mismanagement and greed have denied the residents of Flint of this right.
Before this catastrophe, residents were already paying astronomical prices for water, the most expensive in the country. The average household was paying $864 per year, double the national average.
According to Boing Boing writer Cory Doctorow the high water prices were a result of corruption and misallocation of money.
“The price rose to its heights when Flint’s corporate manager — appointed by Republican governor Rick Snyder, who gave the CEO the power to override elected officials — illegally imposed a new tariff on the city’s water bills,” Doctorow wrote.
Over five years ago the United Nations (UN) adopted a resolution declaring drinking water and sanitation a human right. The resolution called to attention that approximately 884 million people who, at the time, were deprived of safe drinking water.
Based on the UN’s report, “approximately 1.5 million children under 5 years of age die and 443 million school days are lost each year as a result of water and sanitation-related diseases.” This is an inexcusable travesty in our modern era.
And so is the situation in Flint.
The Flint water crisis is said to add upwards of 12,000 children to the list of casualties from the contaminated drinking.
Speaking to WNEM 5 in Michigan, United Way CEO of Genesee County, Jamie Gaskin told reporters “between 6,000 and 12,000 kids, somewhere in there, have been exposed in this period of time to lead.”
Worst of all, due to the fault being of the state, the residents are most likely to be picking up the bill.
Gaskin went on to state that it will take an estimated $100 million to help curb potential health and developmental issues. His organization is working on raising the money to help support the people affected and mitigate the cost that will potentially be passed down to Flint taxpayers.
Governor Rick Snyder and his office have thrown their own people into peril due to severe administrative negligence, and should be held responsible through impeachment and removed from office.