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It's Now Been Three Long Years Since Flint Had Clean Water

Flint, Michigan has not had clean water since the city switched its water source to the Flint River on April 24, 2014

"I'm so scared," one Flint resident said about the water this week. (Photo: Joyce Zhu / Flintwaterstudy.org)

As of Tuesday, the city of Flint, Michigan has been without clean water for over three long years.

"The people of Flint have been through hell over the last three years and it's absolutely disgusting that there has been little change in their daily lives."
—Lonnie Scott, Progress Michigan

April 24, 2014 was the day that city officials made the disastrous decision to switch the city's water source to the Flint River, whose polluted water corroded aged lead pipes and poisoned residents' water with lead.

The city still does not have clean water. Residents must purchase filters to reduce the lead in their water, and the city says it will be three more years before all of the city's lead pipes are replaced, according to NPR.

Local ten-year-old water activist Amariyanna Copeny, better known as Little Miss Flint, filmed a video for Teen Vogue this week in which she demonstrates how difficult it is to cook dinner with bottled water—a reality for many Flint residents:

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is now recommending that the city switch to Detroit's water supply, which Flint was doing before April 2014.

At the meeting last week where Weaver announced her recommendation, police ended up arresting six people after arguments broke out. "Residents peppered officials with questions about bacteria, the long-term medical impact of the water supply, and medical support for those potentially contaminated with lead, and how they can ever trust the government again," reported MLive.

"I'm so scared," one Flint resident commented to the New York Times about the water. "There's nothing we can do about it. I don't know if I would let [my children] drink the water ever again."

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In the three years since the Flint water crisis began, it has resonated nationwide, shedding light on the urgent public health problem of lead in water supplies—a threat in many municipalities with aging infrastructure.

Water expert Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech University, who first blew the whistle on the crisis in Flint, commented to Public Radio International that "lead was something that was once ignored, covered up, and now it's taken very seriously and we're even starting to see some improved sampling in schools, which I thought we might never see in my lifetime."

"I think one of the more profound regulatory changes that people don't even talk about is the fact that people have been indicted for what occurred," Edwards told the outlet. "And as I travel the country, I go to state regulatory agencies. Good, honest people at these agencies tell me that this is such an example that when they see something wrong now, they can just say 'well, if we don't do something, we're going to be like MDEQ [Michigan Department of Environmental Quality] in Flint. We want to do our jobs.'"

That awareness and concern has still not helped the people of Flint, however, progressive advocates charge.

"The people of Flint have been through hell over the last three years and it's absolutely disgusting that there has been little change in their daily lives. Many still rely solely on bottled water and over 1,000 days into this crisis still cannot trust the water from their taps," said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, in a statement. 

"While the residents of Flint struggle without clean water and are denied their basic rights, no significant legislation has been passed to prevent another crisis like this one and the Republican-led legislature has yet to issue one subpoena to investigate the crisis," Scott added.

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