“It’s the whole idea of basic respect. We live in America and we all know that America isn’t a third world country. We have the ability to give people fresh water and it’s so simple,” said Drayke Simpkins (11). Coming from a close-knit, Detroit-loving family, Simpkins strongly defends the city of Flint, and their struggles for clean and safe water.
The city of Flint, Michigan has experienced substantial amounts of poverty and consequently malnutrition. Around 40.1 percent of this city’s population is currently living in poverty, which makes Flint one of the greatest impoverished city in Michigan. “The second largest city in [Governor Snyder’s] state, with an environmental and a human catastrophe,” said Dixon, an economic/government teacher at Portage Northern.
Adding on to such distress, Flint has recently encountered a lead poisoning outbreak known as Legionnaire’s disease. The problem started when General Motors issued a complaint to Governor Snyder about water corroding their car parts. Governor Snyder’s fix to GM’s water issue was to hook up GM to the fresh, clean water from Lake Huron for $440,000, which leaves the rest of the city of Flint to the Flint River Water.
This caused thousands of citizens everywhere to become angry, confused, and hurt with the decision making process of the government. “I am just disgusted that they let things be the priority over people and people’s lives. I don’t know if like, when government makes these decisions, they put faces to these populations,” said Marie Nyirahategekimana (12). Not only does this issue grab hold of citizens, but people right here at Portage Northern.
In April of 2014 after the switch was made, many residents began to complain about their water’s color, taste, and smell. Sadly, this was simply ignored by government officials for a long period of time. Over a year later, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) settled to do water testing, and the tests uncovered 367 parts [per billion] of lead in one woman’s home, yet it was approved to be safe.
Some believe Gov. Snyder’s passive response is viewed as environmental racism. “I think he has that idea that the city is already poor, like I’m just gunna like not pay attention to them- Everybody knows Governor Snyder could’ve done a lot more,” said Simpkins. Environmental racism is a practice that affects groups or communities because of their race or class. For example, poor communities and communities of color often experience more environmental hazards, than those in white, high-class communities.
“The rich suburbs up around the Hampton area have received $30 million in Governmental aid to keep their beaches in place. The poor suburbs have received zero- so had this been a West Bloomfield problem, people would’ve been a lot more driven,” said Joel Shaffer, a math teacher at Portage Northern. Sitting down, and becoming aware of the problems in America, plays a consequential role in how Americans learn about their country. Yet, some people believe it is all a misunderstanding, and it is not racists. “No, I don’t think it’s supposed to be a racial thing. It’s just a very, very poor place,” said Maryn Brown(10). This describes that not only is Flint a place of poverty, but a home for thousands of people. As a [past] member of Flint’s community, Brown feels that it is not Gov. Snyder’s fault completely, but also the fault of the EPA.
People in Flint are suffering, from experiencing hair fall out, to high anxiety/depression and many more, including nine deaths and 87 cases of Legionnaire’s disease. This could have been fixed with a simple ‘push of a button.’ “The [EPA] could’ve fixed it with one little fix, but they didn’t. They could’ve fixed the pipes- and for whatever reason, they just didn’t do it,” said Dixon.
In some cases in Flint, people are dealing with some of the worst conditions. “People can’t even shower, like what are you going to do? Shower, with a bottle of water? It’s terrible,” said Simpkins.
Students, parents, teachers, and the whole city, can get involved to help the city grow. Instead of feeling hopeless for the community of Flint, Michigan, you can donate some water. The Sadie Hawkins Dance on Saturday, February 13 is a great opportunity to help. Tickets are $10 each, but you can save $5 per pair if you bring in a case of water to donate to Flint, Michigan. If each student brought in a case of water (which usually is twenty-four water bottles) to the Sadie Hawkins Dance, that would add up to approximately 32,400 bottles of water. “I think the first step is being aware. There are several donation sites around Kalamazoo, various churches, and places to donate bottles of water,” said Simpkins.