Flint Water Crisis Emphasizes Awareness of Water Science
Photo by Allison Birr

Flint Water Crisis Emphasizes Awareness of Water Science

After two years of drinking and bathing in brown-colored, toxic water, Flint, Michigan is finally receiving the relief it has been seeking since April 2014.

Rick Snyder, Michigan governor, stripped power from local authorities and appointed an emergency manager who made the decision to switch Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the polluted Flint River in 2014. It was the cheapest option while in the process of switching water companies.

In turn of events, water from the Flint River was so corrosive that it leached lead from old piping into water that went directly to residential areas, including homes, hospitals and schools.

Joseph Paoletti, junior natural resource planning major, is frustrated with the injustice of this situation.

He said, “We don’t know or care where our water comes from anymore because we pay for it and it is provided as a service. It’s not our fault. We hope the individuals in charge provide clean drinking water and are doing the right thing with science backing them up, but unfortunately most of the policies are influenced by money.”

Studies conducted by Virginia Tech scientists in 2015 concluded that the levels of lead in the water were unsafe for human consumption. However, Flint residents were repeatedly told by the local government that the water was safe even after the scientific team revealed their findings.

Kevin Masarik, UW-Extension groundwater education specialist, presses the importance of scientific research.

“In any situation where the water source is going to be changed, it’s important to have an understanding of that change and the water quality being distributed into homes. It’s an example of why it’s important to listen to scientists. That’s one of the take-home messages I’ve gotten from this example,” Masarik said.

Associate professor Paul McGinley also encourages students to actively learn more about water resources.

“Drinking water is a great career option and this is an example of how important it is to have a good scientific background. It can be combined with a career that helps public health,” he said.

McGinley recommends students who are interested in careers in water resources to craft their educational programs toward their future career goals and seek out part-time jobs or internships that would help them get active in the field.

Students are also encouraged to contact the water chemistry lab in the Trainer Natural Resource Center for hands-on experience.

Ta Xiong



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