Tag Archive | Flint water crisis

Water No Get Enemy

www3_8086_400x400A new month, a new week begins. Still, the people of Flint face what is becoming an “old” reality: their water is poisoning them. According to the Mayo Clinic, in babies and children lead poisoning causes slowed growth, developmental delay, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite and weight loss, sluggishness and fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting and constipation and hearing loss. Studies have shown that lead poisoned children may be more likely to become involved in criminal behaviors as adults.

Adults may experience high blood pressure, abdominal, joint and muscle pain, constipation, numbness and tingling of the extremities, headache, memory loss, mood disorders, reduced and abnormal sperm, miscarriage and premature birth and declines in mental function.

Take a few minutes to listen to this great song, Water No Get Enemy,  from Fela Kuti. Consider the facts and create the intention that our public water throughout the state is safe for children and adults.

T’o ba fe lo we omi l’o ma’lo
If you wan to go wash, na water you go use
T’o ba fe se’be omi l’o ma’lo
If you wan cook soup, na water you go use

T’o ri ba n’gbona o omi l’ero re
If your head dey hot, na water go cool am
T’omo ba n’dagba omi l’o ma’lo
If your child dey grow, na water he go use

If water kill your child, na water you go use
T’omi ba p’omo e o omi na lo ma’lo

Ko s’ohun to’le se k’o ma lo’mi o
Nothing without water
Ko s’ohun to’le se k’o ma lo’mi o
Omi o l’ota o

Water, him no get enemy
Omi o l’ota o
If you fight am, unless you wan die
I say water no get enemy
If you fight am, unless you wan die

Omi o l’ota o
I dey talk of Black man power
I dey talk of Black power, I say
I say water no get enemy

If you fight am, unless you wan die
I say water no get enemy
I say water no get enemy
Omi o l’ota o
Omi o l’ota o

Water justice: a call to action

The following comprises OKT’s newest Food Justice Series handout. Click the link to download  Water Justice 

tbtt_squarewebAs the media hype around the Flint Water Crisis wound down, the focus shifted to the safety of public drinking water throughout Michigan and lauding charities for collecting and distributing bottled water to Flint residents. A lot of effort is being put into band-aid approaches that do not solve the root cause of the problem. Meanwhile, Flint’s children continue to be poisoned every time they drink, bathe or brush their teeth with tap water.

Although a better alternative than drinking poisoned tap water, flooding the City of Flint with  bottled water causes other problems. For one, the city is now awash with millions of empty plastic bottles. For another, bottled water is a product. Charities and individuals are purchasing this product from corporations like Nestle, which takes water from Michigan’s ground water stores. According to a Feb. 2016 Democracy Now broadcast, “Nestlé, the largest water bottling company in the world, (is allowed) to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from aquifers that feed Lake Michigan … in Mecosta County, Nestlé is not required to pay anything to extract the water, besides a small permitting fee to the state and the cost of leases to a private landowner. In fact, the company received $13 million in tax breaks from the state to locate the plant in Michigan.”

web_830x437_fact-publicwater-webWhile our state and city governments cannot find money to repair our failing water infrastructures, they can afford to give away millions, if not billions, of dollars to private corporations that have convinced us to buy bottled water. Many communities across the country and around the world have sold their municipal water works to private corporations – with disastrous results. In 2011, the City of Grand Rapidsconsidered privatizing its water. Thankfully, then-Mayor Heartwell declined.

According to Food and Water Watch, water privatization “undermines the human right to water … When private corporations buy or operate public water utilities, which is often suggested as a solution to municipal budget problems and aging water systems, it more often backfires, leaving communities with higher rates, worse service, job losses, and more.”

Food & Water Watch has documented these, among other, problems with
privatizing water:

  • Loss of Control. Local government officials abdicate control over a vital public resource.
  • Loss of public input. Citizens don’t vote in the corporate boardroom.
  • Loss of transparency. Private operators usually restrict public access to information.
  • The objectives of a profit-extracting water company can conflict with the public interest.
  • Cherry picking service areas. Private water companies are prone to cherry-picking service areas to avoid serving low-income communities.
  • Rate Increases. Investor owned utilities typically charge 63 percent more for sewer service than local government utilities.
  • Higher Operating Costs. Private operation is not more efficient and can increase the cost of financing a water project by 50 to 150 %.
  • Service Problems. This is the primary reason that local governments
    reverse the decision to privatize.
  • Jobs. Privatization typically leads to a loss of one in three water jobs.
  • Privatization can allow systems to deteriorate.

In its handouts, OKT often includes the words, “Healthy food is your family’s right.” We also proclaim, “Clean, harmless water is your family’s right.” Therefore, OKT asks you to join with us in demanding that the City of Grand Rapids, City of Wyoming and all Michigan municipalities:

  1. 61dcac5b609c6bbeEnsure that our tap water is safe to drink and bathe in. This includes employing more reliable testing measures for lead content.
  2. Reconsider fluoridating our water supply as fluoride has been associated with health risks. Let people choose for themselves whether or not to ingest fluoride.
  3. Do not consider privatizing our municipal water supplies.
  4. Stop giving Michigan’s water away to Nestle and other bottled water corporations.
  5. Stop cutting off water service to households with delinquent water bills and cease from using liens from unpaid water bills as a means of seizing property from homeowners.




Nestle is Pumping Millions of Gallons from the Great Lakes for Free While Flint Pays For Poison

Reposted from US UNCUT  Nathan Wellman | February 18, 2016


imrs-php_1One of the most infuriating aspects of the Flint water crisis is that residents are not only still being charged for their poisoned water, but they’re being charged higher rates than almost anywhere in the country.

Residents continue to pay $864 a year for water that is making them sick, more than double what most Americans pay for water service. Flint’s water service charges total 7 percent of the average household income, compared to the United Nations recommendation of 3 percent. “They’ve been using that money improperly for years to fund the general operations of the city,” said Valdemar L. Washington, who’s been fighting the excessive increases in court since 2012. “The city’s sewer fund had a balance of $36 million in 2006 but was running a $23-million deficit by 2012.”

Meanwhile, less than two hundred miles away, multi-billion dollar corporation Nestle has been pumping millions of gallons out of Lake Michigan for free. In fact, they receive 13 million dollars in tax breaks to do so.

Despite making over 15 billion dollars in profits in 2014, Michigan government officials don’t charge Nestle per gallon of water, instead taking only a small permitting fee, as Democracy Now explained:

So not only do low income Flint residents technically pay more for Michigan water than Nestle, but now they’re also forced to buy bottled water from Nestle to stay alive. Flint residents are in the deplorable position of being forced to buy Michigan water from two different parties.

The Nestle bottling plant itself is a hated institution in Mecosta County. As if getting water for free wasn’t enough, the corporation greedily pumped at a rate of 400 gallons a minute, destroying the local environment. Grassroots organization Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) sued Nestle, who bitterly fought the local group for years.

“We wanted to protect our water, and the water was ours, not theirs,” said Peggy Case, President of MCWC. “This lasted for—like I said before, this lasted for eight years. And in that time, with lawyer fees and, you know, all the fees that come with going to court, we spent over $1 million.”

And how did a local activist organization scrounge up the money to fight a corporate giant? “We scrambled for every penny we could get,” Case said. “We did 50/50 raffles among us, or anybody else we could get into it. We did yard sales. We wrote grants. We had bake sales.”

In a stunning victory, MCWC succeeded in forcing Nestle to reduce their withdrawals from 400 to 200 gallons a minute. But Nestle continues to receive free water and preferential treatment.

And Flint residents continue to be overcharged for water that is not only killing them, but bankrupting them as well.

Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW

Michigan’s pollution crisis shows black lives do not matter

Detroit’s most polluted and predominantly black neighborhood is on the verge of a health catastrophe worse than Flint’s

rtx1z1ep-crop-promovar-mediumlargeJanuary 17, 2016 2:00AM ET  

On Jan. 15, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette vowed to investigate the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to determine whether any state laws were broken, resulting in lead contamination.

“The situation in Flint is a human tragedy in which families are struggling with even the most basic parts of daily life,” he said in a statement. “While everyone acknowledges that mistakes were made, my duty as attorney general requires that I conduct this investigation.”

Schuette’s announcement came a day after Gov. Rick Snyder asked President Barack Obama to declare a federal emergency in Flint and for disaster relief assistance. Flint has been overwhelmed by a preventable lead-contaminated water crisis.

On Jan. 13, Snyder activated the state’s National Guard to help with his office’s response to the crisis. State health officials are looking to determine if a spike in Legionnaires’ disease cases in the Flint area is linked to the city’s drinking water.

None of these issues came as a surprise for residents of Detroit’s Boynton neighborhood. The 48217 ZIP code is the most polluted in Michigan. The crisis in Flint was compounded after the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) repeatedly dismissed complaints from residents about dirty tap water.

As in Flint, the DEQ has dismissed Boynton residents’ complaints about pollution and respiratory issues. Many of them sleep with surgical masks to block toxins from tar sand refining that engulf their homes daily. It is common for Detroiters to wake up with low-grade headaches; many rely on asthma inhalers to quiet persistent hacking coughs that are not from colds.

This is how we live in Boynton in 2016 — coping with irritating sores in the nose, constantly registering complaints to the DEQ about pollution to no avail, sharing dire news with neighbors about newly diagnosed health maladies — such as kidney failure, autoimmune diseases and cancer — and early deaths.

Boynton residents live with fear of early death due to chemical exposure from the nearby massive Marathon Petroleum Corp. refinery, which in 2012 underwent a $2.2 billion expansion and processes filthy bitumen and tar sands from Alberta, Canada.

The DEQ ignored numerous complaints about the refinery, saying, it “is in compliance with emission release numbers.” In fact, the agency may soon approve Marathon’s request for new permits, which would increase emissions for several air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, small particulate pollution and sulfuric acid mist.

As Michigan’s leaders grapple with the horrific effects of lead-poisoned water in Flint, they must also act to avoid an impending catastrophe facing yet another black neighborhood.

Industrial smokestacks surround the Boynton neighborhood. “The average toxic burden score among Michigan ZIP codes is 56, and the middle, or median, score of Michigan ZIP codes is 18,” according to an analysis of pollution levels by University of Michigan researchers. “The ZIP code with the greatest toxic burden, 48217 in Detroit, had a score of 2,576.”

In 2011 the Sierra Club’s environmental justice program coordinator, Leslie Fields, labeled an area including Boynton “a sacrifice zone for energy production.” It is tragic that the DEQ continues to sacrifice public health for corporations interested only in improving their bottom lines and for the state’s tax revenues.

Boynton is already in nonattainment” for federal standards on sulfur dioxide (SO2), one of the leading causes of asthma and other respiratory diseases. The neighborhood has the highest rate of asthma in the state, and Detroit ranks in the top 10 among U.S. cities.

This is why it is deeply troubling to learn that the DEQ is close to approving Marathon’s revised pollution permit. The proposal would increase SO2 emissions by more than 20 tons per year. Allowing additional SO2 emissions in Boynton, where children already cling to asthma inhalers, is preposterous.

Boynton residents hoped that the Environmental Protection Agency would not agree to increase SO2 emission levels. After all, Michigan is under federal mandate to lower its SO2 emission rate. But we were wrong. The EPA has approved Marathon’s request, claiming air toxins will increase by less than 1 percent. The EPA says 770 lives can be saved annually by 2030 if Marathon removes the SO2 in its reformulated fuel, which necessitated the increase in emissions. In effect, the agency is sacrificing our lives for others’.

There is a racial component to Michigan’s ongoing woes. As with Flint, Boynton’s residents are predominantly African-American and low income. It is inconceivable to think that the DEQ and EPA would make similar determinations in a wealthy, white neighborhood and sacrifice their children. The underlying message is clear: Black lives do not matter.

The DEQ must scrap Marathon’s requests to increase SO2 emissions in an already polluted community. As Michigan’s leaders grapple with the horrific effects of lead-poisoned water in Flint, they must also act to avoid an impending catastrophe facing yet another black neighborhood.


Emma Lockridge has lived most of her life in Detroit’s 48217 ZIP code, home to an oil refinery and major polluting industries. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.