It’s been 777 days since Michigan switched Flint’s water supply from Detroit to Flint River and residents began complaining that it looked, tasted, and smelled wrong; 478 days since a Flint resident informed the Environmental Protection Agency that her water contained high levels of lead; and 157 days since Republican Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency.
The U.S. Congress still hasn’t passed any aid to help Flint, or for any of the other communities that could use it.
Senate Republicans on Thursday abandoned an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allocate $1.9 billion for lead-free clean water infrastructure across the country and in Flint. Before this bill, the Senate didn’t add aid onto a comprehensive energy package because Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) blocked the amendment.
Not only does the water in Flint still contain lead — which leads to physical and developmental problems in adults and children — it could take up to eight years and more than $200 million to replace the damaged pipes that lead to the crisis. And the water in Flint isn’t just dangerous, it’s also expensive: A report by Food and Water Watch found that the annual water bill for a Flint household was about $910 as of January 2015. That’s compared to $315 in districts where water is a government utility and $500 in districts where water is provided by for-profit entities. Making this all the more chilling, Flint is one of the most impoverished cities in the nation.
More than 2,000 municipal water systems in all 50 states show elevated levels of lead, and yet, the U.S. Congress continues to ignore, to postpone, to deny funding to fix the problem. As John Oliver said, “Flint has become a city whose name is synonymous with disaster.” The same could be said of Congress.