After watching Josh Fox’s Gasland, I began comparing the effects of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to Flint’s current water crisis, in which a series of chemicals, most notably lead, has poisoned the citizens of Flint ever since Gov. Snyder swapped Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the heavily-polluted Flint River. Governor Snyder has been criticized for making this change to save Michigan some money, though he was fully aware of the contamination in the Flint River. Activists like filmmaker Michael Moore have demanded government intervention and the resignation and investigation of Gov. Snyder.
This New York Times article helped me comprehend the timeline of the Flint water crisis. Thinking about the crisis has sparked thoughts for me about how much clean water will be left for the next generation. Lake Huron is the fifth largest freshwater lake in the world. Our fresh water gets recycled through the natural water cycle, but the introduction of toxic chemicals to our fresh water greatly reduces the amount of water safe for consumption. In a world in which millions don’t have access to clean water, it’s remarkable to me that Flint residents, who live close to Lake Huron, are subjected to drinking tainted water. It’s equally unfathomable that natural gas corporations are poisoning fresh water from the water table, blasting it into the Earth, and then allowing toxic waste to seep back into the water table, and eventually, into the faucets of millions of homes.
According to a Forbes article about the Flint water crisis, a further problem is that the less developed blood-brain barrier in young children allows more lead to enter the developing nervous system, contributing to life-long neurologic sequela. Protecting pregnant women from lead exposure is thus critical for their babies. Children retain about 1/3 of absorbed lead, and it is retained in their bones, so blood levels may actually underestimate exposure. The best thing we can do now is push for legislation banning hydraulic fracturing and demand the routine inspections of pipes and water sources that connect to our nation’s faucets. If we remain ahead of the game rather than ignore the problem, there won’t be another community sickened by their own water.