Is another Flint waiting to happen?

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has captured the attention of the nation and world, as the embattled community tries to overcome a tragic situation that will impact countless lives for decades to come.

As with most stories in life, this one has many layers.

It has to start with the facts: contamination has directly led to as many as 12,000 children being exposed to drinking water with extremely high levels of lead, which is proven to cause a variety of serious health problems.

Then, the focus must immediately shift to relief efforts and mitigating the health concerns. These must remain the top two priorities for the coming weeks, months and likely even years to come.

It has been heartwarming to see so many individuals, organizations and businesses across southwest Michigan rise to the challenge and provide assistance in a myriad of ways.

Although lots of finger pointing has gone on and the blame game has been in full effect (rightfully so), there are still many questions to be asked and lessons to be learned here.

Perhaps the biggest is: Why was no one really paying attention before or asking the right people the right questions?

This starts with the elected officials who chose to use the Flint River as a water source, but also includes local health officials, state agencies, the federal government, the media and the citizens themselves. Some of these individuals have been held accountable for their actions — or in some case inaction — but only after the fact.

In many ways we’ve become a reactive society, only becoming engaged once the time bomb has exploded.

But why do we ignore the ticking that comes before the culmination?

Flint offers many painful lessons about citizen apathy, government malfeasance and the idea that money drives far too many decisions in this world.

Hopefully we can use this as a springboard to spark more measures for providing and testing drinking water for our citizens, but also to really emphasize why being active and engaged in our government and our communities is vitally important.

Clean water should never be taken for granted, not in a third-world country and certainly not in America. Neither should the need for engaged citizens.

 

Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at mike.caldwell@leaderpub.com.

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