Think you’re mad about the Flint water crisis? Have a seat and take a deep breath.
Crain’s Automotive News ran a story on Sunday revealing that a Flint General Motors plant has avoided using the city’s corrosive water since December of 2014. It turns out that Flint’s water was corroding GM’s metal parts.
“The water was rusting the [engine] blocks,” said Dan Reyes, president of UAW Local 599. The Local represents the nearly 900 workers in the GM engine plant. It was not lead but the high levels of chloride—used to purify the filthy water of the Flint River—that was harming the metal. After trying costly remediation processes, such as reverse osmosis, GM took advantage of the plant’s proximity to Flint Township to tap into that community’s water source. Flint Township receives its water from Detroit, which processes water taken from Lake Huron. Because the engine plant had been within the Township’s border until the 1970’s, the infrastructure was already in place to draw on the alternative water source.
GM’s Flint workers, though, saw the effect the water was having on the engine blocks and grew even more concerned about the city’s water. The city changed its source of water to the Flint River in April, 2014, as a cost-saving measure.
Here is an excerpt from the Automotive News article: “It was then that GM began working through the bureaucratic red tape of extricating itself from its Flint water contract…” Consider that. Much of the “bureaucratic red tape” would have been the property of the City of Flint. So at least as early as December 2014, the city knew that its water—the water that its residents had been complaining about—was so corrosive that GM was petitioning to uncouple itself from the system.
One could argue that GM had a moral responsibility to alert the city’s residents about the nature of the water they were drinking. It would have been the neighborly thing to do. But then, looking at the Flint River, the abandoned factories and decimated neighborhoods, you get an idea of what kind of neighbor GM has been. But once again, a moral and legal responsibility rested with the city and the State of Michigan to protect Flint’s residents. This story provides one more smoking gun in the case against Governor Rick Snyder, Emergency Manager Darnell Earley and all the functionaries beneath them who ignored and covered up the crisis.
If it is hard for us to fathom how a human being could so coldly dismiss the health and safety of a city of 100,000, we might recall the words of Lord Acton about the corrupting tendency of power. Like chemically polluted water, power gets into a system and corrodes what it touches. No remediation can save such a system. Only by changing to a system that does not draw upon the waters of personal power can we hope to establish an actually humane society.
Photo credit: http://media.graytvinc.com/images/GM66.jpg