As national attention on the Flint water crisis grows, the Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling for a more sustained response from the federal government, along with justice for the city’s residents.
“This is a disaster, not just an emergency,” the longtime civil rights activist told a crowd of more than 150 people packed into the Heavenly Host Church of the Harvest in Flint.
Speaking to news media afterward, Jackson added: “Maybe they should put … tape around the city, because Flint is a crime scene.”
Jackson’s arrival came a day after President Obama declared a state of emergency in the city to allow federal relief funds to be spent on residents, who cannot drink their tap water because it is contaminated by lead. The president stopped short of a disaster declaration, which under federal law is only for natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods, officials said. The governor’s office is studying a possible appeal of the federal denial of the requested disaster declaration, spokesman Dave Murray said Sunday.
Jackson’s speech also came a day after filmmaker Michael Moore spoke in front of Flint City Hall and declared that the poisoned water was “not a mistake” and that the situation was “not just a water crisis. It’s a racial crisis. It’s a poverty crisis. … That’s what created this.”
Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city, in 2014, switched its supply source from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to more corrosive and polluted Flint River water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant.
The switch was made as a cost-cutting move while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The state Department of Environmental Quality has acknowledged a mistake in failing to require the addition of needed corrosion-control chemicals to the water. That caused lead, which causes brain damage and other health problems in children, to leach into the water from pipes and fixtures.
Source: USA Today | Daniel Bethencourt and Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press