Student From Flint Deals With Water Crisis


For 21 years, Jadean Norman has called Flint, Michigan her home. Growing up, the junior accounting major recognized how community orientated the residents were, and that’s what she loved most about living there.

“When I think of Flint, I think of extremely nice people. No matter what walk of life you come from, someone is willing to help you,” Norman said.

Located along the Flint River, the city was known for founding the General Motors plant in 1908. After years of prosperous success, economics changed in the 1980s, the manufacturing factories closed, and the city faced extreme financial hardship. Crime rates soared. In 2011, The city was deemed in a state of financial emergency.

While Norman was away at school, her beloved hometown was plagued by another crisis.

In 2015, high levels of lead was found in Flint’s water.

As a result, ten people died from Legionnaires disease, a form of bacterial pneumonia. Nearly 12,000 Flint citizens contracted lead poisoning and suffered irreversible damage.

Approximately two years ago, the state of Michigan decided to switch Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, in efforts to save money. Many residents were surprised by the change since the Flint River is notoriously known for its filthy water.

The state Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent, according to a class-action lawsuit. This violated federal law because for any water supply to be considered safe to drink, it first has to be treated with an anti-corrosive agent. The water eroded the iron water mains and turned the water brown.

Norman’s dad had an inkling that the water was not safe to drink so he decided that the family would no longer use the water from the tap.

“My dad, being as paranoid as he is, switched to buying water from Sam’s Club in bulk. We had the water cut off and haven’t used it since,” Norman said.

While Norman’s family cut off using the tap water, other residents continued to use it.

Residents noticed the smelly, discolored, and weird tasting water coming from their tap and raised concerns to local officials. The officials acknowledged the water did look and smell funny but downplayed the severity of the situation.

“Before national stories started coming out, Flint officials kind of said, ‘Warning, the water’s kind of bad, don’t try it.’ But they never said anything as to the degree of what was actually in the water or how terrible it was,” Norman said.

This was just the tip of the iceberg for uninformed residents of Flint.

The service lines connecting homes to the Flint River are made of lead. Since the water was not treated as required, lead started seeping into the water. So, both iron and lead were in the water supply, said the lawsuit.

Despite the mild warnings from government officials, residents knew that there was much more in the water. Researchers from Virginia Tech heard about the smelly, discolored water in Flint and decided to test it. They discovered the water was 19 times more corrosive than the previous water supply from Lake Huron.

With the research conducted by Virginia Tech, it confirmed the symptoms residents voiced to government officials. In October, the water supply was switched back to Lake Huron. But, damage had already been done.

The city is now under a state of health emergency.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Flint Hurley Medical Center is viewed as the “hero doctor.” Along with Virginia Tech researchers, she came to the conclusion that the water was indeed contaminated and made her findings public. After meeting with children who had rashes on the skin, she used their previous blood records and compared it to updated tests to see if there was a change. She discovered lead levels tripled.

“When (my research team and I) saw that it was getting into children and when we knew the consequences, that’s when I think we began not to sleep,” Hanna-Attisha said in a statement.

One month later, Flint residents filed a class-action lawsuit against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, the city of Flint, the state of Michigan, and city officials. Listed in the lawsuit were all the effects of using the water from the tap.The effects  included: hair loss, skin abrasion, elevated levels of lead in the blood, memory loss, vision loss, anxiety, and depression.

Snyder received backlash from residents over the toxic water streaming from their water taps. On Jan. 16, he issued an apology to the people of Flint Michigan during a State of the State address.

“No citizen of this great state should endure this kind of catastrophe. Government failed you, federal state and local leaders by breaking the trust you put in us. I’m sorry most of all that I let you down. You deserve better, you deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the bucks stops here with me. Most of all, you deserve to know the truth, I have a responsibility to tell the truth. The truth about what we’ve done and what we’ll do to overcome this challenge…we will not stop working for the people of Flint until every single person has clean water every single day, no matter what,” Snyder stated.

In the 21st century, citizens of America are without, clean drinking water.

As news spread nationally about contaminated water in Flint, many jumped into action to help. Michigan born and raised celebrities have donated money to assist their hometown. Rapper Eminem teamed up with Sean “Diddy” Combs and Mark Wahlberg to donate a million bottles of water to Flint through AQUAhydrate, a bottled water company. Hip-hop rapper Big Sean donated $10,000 to help with supplying clean water to residents. Also, he started a “Help Flint’s Kids” campaign on CrowdRise, an online fundraising platform. So far, over $20,000 was raised in donations. Comedian Jimmy Fallon encouraged others to join in the efforts to help Flint.

“Happy Sunday!! I’m donating $10,000 to How about 10 friends match me? #WaterForFlint,” Fallon posted to his Twitter page.

CFGF stands for Community Foundation Greater Flint which is a charity that supports the town year round.

Norman was happy to see celebrities taking the time to donate water bottles and money to residents. However, she thinks this is a temporary solution.

“The water bottles that everyone has been donating is amazing but it’s a quick fix. I think something needs to be done for the long term.”

On Jan. 26, Snyder signed a $28 million dollar bill provide funding to deal with the consequences of contaminated water, eroded pipes, and health problems for those who used the tap water. President Barack Obama announced $80 million in funding will go to help Michigan fix its water infrastructure. Subsequently, Michigan’s U.S. senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters proposed $400 million in federal funding to resolve the damages and an additional $200 million to compensate the children and adults who were lead poisoned.

Norman never wants to see a tragedy like this ever happen again in Flint. She believes there needs to be rules and safety precautions in place to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

“Having a system in place that will react quickly is a good way to fix things,” Norman said. “Updating test and there should be repercussions for the government and anyone involved, if you do something wrong, this is what happens. Putting more checks and balances in… Having a system in place that will react quickly to a crisis is a good way to fix things.”

In the last two years, the people of Flint, Michigan dealt with the crisis of contaminated water that could have put an end to their town. It will take years to thoroughly reverse the damages. Norman loves the bond Flint residents have kept throughout adversity.

She hopes that things will only get better from here.

“We’re a very resilient community. We have gone through a lot, and I think we can get through the worst. We have to.”