After endangering — and knowingly harming — residents in Flint, Michigan, the government is reportedly threatening to take the children of those who opt not to pay to have the toxic water pumped into their homes.
According to Michigan law, parents are considered to be neglectful if they do not have running water in their home, so if they do not pay for Flint’s poisonous water, they could be found guilty of child endangerment. Alternet reports that local activists have spoken out about threats already having been made to local families.
“I would certainly not bathe a newborn or infant in Flint water,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said during a news conference on Monday.
There are currently two lawsuits that have been filed by residents to have the city void all water bills since April, as the water was unsafe.
“Essentially, the residents have been getting billed for water that they cannot use,” Trachelle Young, one of the attorneys representing four Flint families told reporters on January 19. “Because of that, we do not feel that is a fair way to treat the residents.”
The problem with Flint’s water began in April 2014, when the city stopped receiving its water from Detroit, instead shifting to water from the Flint River, which is known to have a high salt content. Corrosive salts in the water damaged the pipes, which contain lead, causing that material to be released into the water, and contaminating it.
Flint city emergency manager Darnell Earley, appointed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, was responsible for the shift.
In October, the state changed the city’s drinking water source back from the corrosive Flint River to the Detroit water system, but warned that the water still is not safe.
A study conducted by scientists at Virginia Tech tested the water in 271 Flint homes last summer and found some contained lead levels so high that they fell under the EPA’s definition of “toxic waste.”Recent estimates have found that it may take up to 15 years and over $60 million to undo all the damage caused to the water system, and in the meantime, the state has ruled that residents may not sell their homes, as they are known to carry contaminated water. Though this is through no fault of the homeowners, and is entirely the fault of the government.
The US Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether any criminal laws were broken in the poisoning of Flint’s children.