The Flint water crisis has been taxing for families in Flint — and many are working families like our members’. The crisis stems back to an attempt to save money. However, instead of focusing on properly treating water and ensuring that their service lines were in properly suited for the change, the city wound up providing its citizens with undrinkable, toxic and corrosive water from the Flint River. When the state of Michigan forced cities like Flint to cut their spending, they did not take care to maximize their spending and protect their citizens.
The city decided to create its own connection to Lake Huron in order to avoid spending the additional costs of Detroit water. Although this project would create jobs, it would also take several years to complete. In the meantime, Flint needed an alternative. The alternative that the city selected was the Flint River. However, this water had a different organic makeup and was more corrosive.
When it was discovered that water sitting idle in the system could allow for bacteria such as E. Coli to grow, the city responded by adding more chlorine to the water. That chlorine, in addition to the river’s own corrosive matter, caused increased levels of iron and lead to leach into the drinking water. Citizens were also drinking increased levels of other chemicals due to improper cleaning and treatment. The 75-year old cast-iron pipes could not withstand the new source. Now, these pipes need to be completely rebuilt.
The Senate is in the process of trying to pass a bipartisan energy bill, but Democrats have insisted that in order for the bill to pass, there must be an amendment to provide funds for Flint. Democratic Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters are aiming for a $600 million package, but only time will tell what negotiations will yield. Not only would this be vital for the people of Flint, as they continue to rely on water bottles to drink and clean themselves, but also for workers. Flint’s service lines need to be rebuilt, and their city needs a solidified plan to ensure that their citizens have safe drinking water. It is up to ironworkers like us to complete this important work.
While we are on the topic of safe water and infrastructure, let’s also ensure that no other city endures the pain of watching their children be poisoned by toxic chemicals by rebuilding infrastructure and pipes across the country. Flint is not the only city with decades-old service lines and general infrastructure. We can create jobs and ensure the safety of our citizens by assessing the age and construct of water systems across the country. It’s time to invest in our nation’s infrastructure — for our safety and for the economy.