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"Flint's Water Crisis and the 'Troublemaker' Scientist" by Hohn Donovan

Social Environment and Governmental, Intergovernmental Reaction to the Water Crisis

The paper bases on the analysis of the article “Flint’s Water Crisis and the ‘Troublemaker’ Scientist” by Hohn Donovan that describes the hard work of the expert Edwards who aims to reveal the truth concerning the real condition of water and highlight the illegal actions of the officials who want to conceal it. The study of the article assisted in identifying the fact that historically the waters of Flint River had poor quality and were full of fecal coliform bacteria, plant nutrients, dissolved oxygen, and other toxic substances. The analysis significantly enhanced the knowledge of the problem. It was learned that when the officials identified the issue, they decided not to inform society about it despite people suffered from the poisoned water. Such a situation induced the residents to initiate their own investigation that indicates the specific social environment. The crucial learned fact was that the officials had reacted to the problem only after revealing the results of the real test. A million dollars was allocated for rebuilding and compensation. However, the social environment testified about the loss of trust in the government.

Keywords: contamination, troublemaker, social environment, tests, evidence, rash, ethic, scientists

Detroit is a city with a population of 98 305 people who had to use the waters of the contaminated rivers (Bellinger, 2016). The impressive news concerning the water crisis spread around the world. The article “Flint’s Water Crisis and the ‘Troublemaker’ Scientist” by Hohn Donovan, which was published in 2016 in New York Times, explicitly described the situation that the water crisis caused and highlighted the reasons of the numerous illnesses. The problems with the contamination of the river were connected with poor quality of the water, concealing of real test results, and bad condition of the equipment that led to the real disaster. The aim of the article is to inform the nation about the truth concerning unethical actions and indifference of the governmental bodies. The author highlights the real reasons for the problem occurrence and social reaction that assisted in identifying the violation of ethical issues describes the accountability and helps to gain useful knowledge about the real scale of the catastrophe and government’s ability to react to such occurrences.

The analysis of the article showed that ineffective governmental decisions and desire to save money diverting people from the freshwater resources of Lake Huron and attracting to the contaminated Flint River became the main reasons for the catastrophe (Bellinger, 2016). Edwards spent years proving the scientific misconduct of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The intragovernmental reaction was reflected in the collaboration of the officials with the aim to conceal the truth despite provided evidence and the spread of illnesses. The scientists represented the report in 2010 that rouse the indignation of bureaucrats who called the expert a reluctant activist and troublemaker (Hohn, 2016). The fake results of tests relaxed people, and they continued to drink contaminated water, which caused the spread of the Legionnaires’ disease that killed 12 individuals (Hohn, 2016). Hohn also mentioned that the ignorance of the problem leads to the pipes corrosion and fall of the leaches into the water. Thus, Edwards decided to ask other experts for help. One of the qualified specialists, LeeAnne Walters, detected dangerously high lead levels in the water (Hohn, 2016). The fact that the problem was not controlled previously impressed the experts. However, the Michigan Department of Environment Quality discredited Walters’ report on the EPA and, therefore, proved specific intergovernmental intention to conceal the information (Hohn, 2016). The spokesperson of the institution Wurfel said that the fast testing, which the experts performed, was directed to the instigation of the intergovernmental conflict. In 2014, David Lewis edited the book Science for Sale that called institutional science a fraudulent manipulation of the government agencies, academic and corporative institutions that supported the industry practices and government policies (Hohn, 2016).

The governmental reaction was more clear but not timely. Numerous evidence and even the refuse of local General Motors engine plant to use the waters of the Flint River because it caused the rusting of the parts, did not stop the officials’ attempts to assure the residents of the water safety. In that period, only the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton considered such behavior of the officials unconscionable. However, she also did not initiate serious actions to solve the problem (Gorski, 2016). The spread of real results that the responsible departments got in February 2014 made Snyder admit the situation. The State Environmental Department was convinced of the improper treatment for the Flint River (Gorski, 2016). Sending the request for assistance in the problem solving to the White House became a crucial step. Barack Obama declared the problem of water contamination (Gorski, 2016). However, the issue was not studied seriously since people continued to take a shower that caused the spread of rash despite Edwards emphasized that fact (Hohn, 2016). Another fact of the weak governmental reaction was the assignment of unqualified specialists. In 2016, the governor Marl Ruffalo induced the formation of the environment group called “Water Defense”. Ruffalo appointed Scott Smith who was not a credentialed scientist to serve as a chief of the “Water Defense” group (Hohn, 2016). Smith told me that technology had never been used before. However, Edwards proved that Virginia Tech applied that method (Hohn, 2016).

The not serious attitude of the government to the problem caused changes in the social environment. Lack of action and cooperation within and between the governmental bodied induced people to fight with the problematic situation by themselves. The analysis of the article showed that Edwards independently took samples of water in numerous families’ houses with the aim to prove the fact of poisoning (Hohn, 2016). He also requested another specialist to help him to confirm the large scope of the problem. Despite the fact that people constantly applied to the hospitals because of the health problems, the officials did not take appropriate actions. Obviously, the social environment of governmental organizations was poor initially and did not change until the spread of the truth about the results of tests (Hohn, 2016). The author noticed that only then the President prohibited the consumption of water and started the policy of help provision. It was initiated by the delivery of freshwater and elaboration of the reconstruction work performing plan. The additional $30 million were sent for paying the water bill credits (Hohn, 2016). Thus, the article proves that the government had enough resources to provide help but it was done not timely that indicates a poor social environment of governmental organizations.

Accountability and Ethics Issue

Lead-contaminated water caused complaints of 100 000 people beginning starting from 2014. However, the fact did not induce a more serious attitude to the solution of the problem (Groden, 2016). Only after the spread of the real information, the governor Rick Snyder promised to fix the issue concerning corroded pipes. He pledged accountability for the wrong decisions that caused the poisoning of the tap water. The crucial factor was the renewal of trust to the government. The ruler sent $28 million for the upgrading of the infrastructure and provision of medical care. (Groden, 2016). More than $165 million was allocated for lead pipes replacement (Groden, 2016). A great number of officials were charged with crimes in crisis. However, despite the taken actions, the question of the ethical problem will never be extirpated since the consequences caused by the long consumption of poisoned water can induce further development of numerous illnesses.

The author also highlighted the violations of the ethical norms, which ineffective work of the officials caused. People should have suffered from the misconduct and neglecting attitude of the bureaucrats and scientists to the contamination of the water. Nevertheless, they were exposed to the negative influence of poisoned water, which reflected in the hair losses, difficult breathing, burning in the lungs, and rashes (Hohn, 2016). Donovan also noticed that after the president announced the prohibition to consume the poisoned water, people continued to take a shower that also caused the problems with the skin. The situation testifies not only the lingering of the problem-solving process but also about inefficient study of the issue and raising awareness about it. Such actions are also a violation of ethical norms.

Lessons Learned from the Article and Historical Facts

The analysis of the article and investigation of Edwards proved that the problem occurred half a century ago and has caused a decrease in life expectancy by 15 years. After investigation of the historical aspects, it became known that the officials neglected the issue during a long period of time that caused negative consequences. The inspection, which Edwards and his team conducted in the 1990s, proved that the distinction between public works and private property was performed in compliance with legal issues but did not correspond to the chemistry principles (Hohn, 2016). The deeper investigation of the article helps to understand that legally a homeowner is responsible for what happens in personal property lines, and the responsible authorities do not care about the inside effects that the poisoned water has in people's houses. However, it makes the pinholes in the copper pipes and causes the spread of bacteria that further have a negative influence on the health of a person. The old plumping fixtures of brass often consisted of lead by 19% (Hohn, 2016). However, until 2014, even brass faucets were represented as lead-free. These facts indicate historically disadvantaged populations (Hohn, 2016).

The analysis of the article crucially enhanced personal understanding of what the appropriate work of public and delivery of services, which the responsible governmental institutions and officials support, should be like. However, it is still hard to understand why “Water Defense” and Michigan Department of Environment Quality violated the Safe Drinking Water Act and concealed the results of the real test despite their work should base on the support of the safe life of people (Groden, 2016). The deeper investigation of the problem showed that when the Nestle was sued in northern Michigan for the more than 190 gallons of fresh water it took from the ground and Ice Mountain, the officials considered the fact of grabbing of such a huge amount of clean water normal (Maher & McWhirter, 2016). However, such cities as Flint, for example, will face a need in that water in the future. This situation proves the deliberate ignoring of the apparent violations. When people were suffering from poisoning, the officials continued to convince that waters of Detroit were filtered with the help of Detroit Water Plant despite numerous complaints. Thus, the government started to fight with the problem too late (Maher & McWhirter, 2016). The governor Snyder was one of the initiators of the problem solution and asked the White House for help. However, in 2011, he made a multi-billion dollar tax break that was passed by the Republican legislature for the corporation (Maher & McWhirter, 2016). Lower tax revenues required cutting of the costs. The newly assigned people reduced services to save money, which let rich people get more breaks and induced the making of Flint contaminated river. It helped to save $15 million but made poor people drink toxic water (Maher & McWhirter, 2016). Thus, it was learned that the financial issues like filling of the budget of the region were set on the first place that led to the sufferings of many people (Maher & McWhirter, 2016). That lesson should teach the government to set the priorities wisely and consider the interests of simple individuals (Maher & McWhirter, 2016). The other important point is that timely elimination of the technical problems can help to avoid the aggravation of the situation.


The analysis of the article significantly contributed to the knowledge concerning the real reasons for the problem occurrence. The author proved that the great desire to raise the economy and fill the budget caused the poisoning of the great number of people including children. Today, the majority of them want to leave their houses and move to another city but low income and absence of demand on entity do not leave them opportunities or possible variants to make their lives better. The author noticed that experts elaborated on the efficient program of a fight with the problem and managed to achieve the investment of much money into the reconstruction. However, the question of why the officials did not pay attention to the issue previously continues to disturb numerous people. They still have to clean dishes in glows and take shower for no longer than two minutes. People sincerely believe in a more serious attitude of the government to the solution of the problem and wait for its complete extirpation in the future.