Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass students discuss the water crisis in Flint, Mich.

School of Earth and Sustainability presents documentary highlighting Flint water crisis

On Wednesday night, graduate student Trista Dearstyne, in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts School of Earth and Sustainability, presented “FLINT: The Poisoning of an American City,” invoking a discussion after the showing to raise awareness of the water crisis in Flint, Mich.

“This town was one of the primer cities,” said Flint, Mich. resident Fran Holmes. “People used to come from all over the country.”

Dearstyne is studying sustainability sciences and concentration on urban sustainability and environmental justice. The viewing was designed as a public engagement activity for the Environmental Conservation 631 course.

She wanted to “pick a documentary that [has a] bigger issue in it,” like the water crisis and economic crisis occurring in the community in Flint, which has been suffering continuously since 2014 due to unsafe water after their water supply was swapped from Lake Huron to the Flint River.

When the switch was flipped on April 25, 2014, it “caused water distribution pipes to corrode and leach lead and other contaminants into municipal drinking water,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The switch was supposed to benefit the economically struggling city, but it proved to have a more destructive impact. For the first 18 months, residents had no idea there was extreme levels of lead in their water.

“Some communities are more vulnerable than others” Dearstyne said.

“Flint’s trying to poison us, is what everyone’s saying” Barbra Noyce, a long-time resident of Flint said during the documentary.

“We’re still going to get water down the street, on daily average me and my wife go through almost two cases, cooking food add another case,” said Flint resident Jim Scott, who suffers from kidney failure and relies on dialysis to keep him alive. This puts a burden on his family economically and emotionally.

Many families in Flint experienced medical complications because of the water crisis, as the documentary pointed out. Including a 12 percent drop in fertility rates, and a 58 percent rise in fetal deaths, according to The National Partnership for Women and Families.

Scott and his family average 70 to 80 cases a month. Around 2.2 million Americans don’t have access to clean home water, according to Resources Radio.

Many factors contributed to the continuation of unsafe water conditions in Flint, including negligence on behalf of the legislature and systems in place, as the documentary explains.

In 2021, after two years of negotiations, the residents of Flint, Mich. won a class action lawsuit against the state of Michigan among other actors like the city of Flint, settling at $626 million dollars.

“If we see an issue happening this bad you would think other towns would be proactive rather than reactive,” Dearstyne said. “I think with climate change and industry growing and population [growth] we will see more environmental harms impacting people like this.”

Alexandra Hill can be reached at [email protected].

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