By: Austin Henderson, Brandi Inglis, Vanessa Ventrensco, & Sienna George
It’s safe to say that most Americans know of the ongoing Flint, Michigan water crisis that began over three years ago. It started with the Flint City Council approving a switch of the City’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in order to save the City money. However, due to lack of testing, the switch caused an issue many of us could never imagine facing—exposure to unsafe tap water. The City and the State neglected and ignored recommendations from federal and independent organizations warning them of the dangerous levels of lead and even traces of fecal coliform bacterium, in fear that the City would go into further debt, recklessly disregarding the safety of Flint citizens.
While the crisis seems unimaginable to many of us, the Flint Water Crisis is not an isolated incident. In fact, water contamination and other water rights related issues are affecting many Americans. For example, Sebring, Ohio found unsafe levels of lead in their drinking water last August when workers stopped tending to the corroding of their water pipes. In Jackson, Mississippi, the city officials waited six months to notify their citizens of water contamination in their communities. These incidents are preventable, but it’s up to us to elect officials dedicated to protecting our health.
The common denominator in almost all of the water crises across our country is poor decision making by state and local elected officials. In the case of the Flint Water Crisis, the Flint City Council, along with the Michigan governor, repeatedly downplayed the harmful effects of the water even when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified Flint officials of the dangerous levels of toxins found in the water. In fact, it was the Flint City Council who approved the initial water source switch to the Flint River, which was reported to have been polluted for the last few decades. When elected officials put more significance on the money and economics of a city or state, rather than the safety of its citizens, then citizens of Flint and other cities across our nation are at a detriment.
There are several things you should look for in candidates when local, state and national elections come around. First, look for candidates who are often seek advice from experts and professionals when health related issues arise. In many of the water crises, professionals were there with statistics and facts, but ultimately the officials made contradictory decisions. Next, pay attention to the candidates views and thoughts on environmental policy reform. These policies, like the Safe Drinking Water Act, affect every citizen in our country and, when enforced, protect the health of citizens. Lastly, ask what the candidate’s plan is when it comes to funding the advancement of infrastructure. Is the candidate aware of the effects of the use of lead water pipes? Does the candidate have a plan to remove lead pipes within the community, and are they invested in creating the safest environment possible for the citizens? Everyone can help prevent crises like the one in Flint. To ensure that this never happens in Idaho, Boise or Boise State, hold your elected officials accountable, ask questions, and express your concern for safe drinking water. Use your vote!