The controversy over Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water crisis continues to rage, now sparking claims that negligence toward the lead-poisoned water is part of a larger national trend of environmental racism. In the wake of investigations exposing the official’s apathy toward poisonous water’s effects upon the community, the EPA official responsible for the Midwest region of the U.S. has resigned, effective Feb. 1. In addition, Reuters reports that the FBI is launching a criminal investigation to investigate whether Flint officials have broken U.S. environmental laws in their mismanagement of the city’s toxic water source.
The problem began in April 2014, when the city switched to using the Flint River as a water source to save money, a New York Times timeline reports. It wasn’t until October 2015 that officials advised Flint residents to stop drinking the water.
With lead content in the river as to be classified as “toxic waste,” Flint residents and Americans nationwide are left wondering why the pollution problem wasn’t addressed sooner. Huff Post interviewed several sociology and environmental justice experts who pointed to the fact that the city of Flint is low-income and primarily black, hinting that the government might have taken more notice had the crisis been in a whiter, wealthier city. Poorer areas tend to have looser environmental regulations and less resources to fight against environmental dangers.
Michigan State University sociology professor Carl S. Taylor told Huff Post,
“It’s not just about black lives mattering here. Poor people’s lives don’t matter [in Flint]. Flint didn’t just get bad. The water just made everyone notice. Everyone is acting surprised, but it’s real simple. This is a big part of American history. No one wants to talk about it, but the chickens have come to roost.”