Ask the Expert: The Flint Water Crisis and Its Impact | MSUToday

“Ask the Expert” articles provide information and insights from MSU scientists, researchers, and scholars on national and global issues, complex research, and topics of general interest based on their areas of interest. expertise and academic studies. They may present historical information, backgrounds, research results or offer advice.

Jeremy Orr is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law with expertise in water sustainability and access and affordability issues. Orr explains how events like climate change and the aftermath of Flint’s water crisis have prompted government and communities to invest in efforts to maintain water resources and make them accessible to all.

Why is water sustainability a growing concern?

We have seen this problem of an impending water crisis for some time now. Climate change exacerbates the problem. In the west, the water is drying up and contaminated, and we have access and affordability issues in other areas where the cost of water has tripled in the last 10 years. We’ve seen issues not only with lead contamination, but now we’re also looking at things like PFAS contamination.

Why is it so difficult to maintain clean and affordable water?

Part of what has made it difficult to fix water infrastructure issues and pipe extraction is the fact that Michigan has placed restrictions on how taxpayers’ money can be spent to fix these issues in places like Flint. We saw the lack of ability to replace things like lead infrastructure in a timely manner.

What are the solutions in place to solve this problem?

State and local governments in Michigan are beginning to implement affordability programs and rate structures that ensure communities have continued access to water at lower rates.

If affordable water means the government has to keep creating some sort of subsidy programs or if we create a different level of tariffs for low-income residents to make sure they have access to water, that must occur. We have seen these ideas not only pioneered, but also implemented in communities across the country to ensure residents have access to them.

What impact has Flint’s water crisis had on raising awareness of the importance of clean water?

The impact of Flint’s water crisis on this city and its people is immeasurable. You have a city that is primarily a low-income, colored community affected by a level of environmental degradation in a way this country hasn’t seen in a very long time. There is talk of an entire city being poisoned by water because of the negligence of its government.

What changes have been made since the Flint water crisis?

The legal ramifications of the Flint water crisis have been far-reaching. We have seen the laws change regarding how state governments and the federal government regulate lead and other contaminants in drinking water. We have seen a plethora of resources, financial support and investments, and changes in drinking water infrastructure since then, not only in Flint but across the country.

It is truly a situation that has brought water to the forefront and prioritized not only the health and well-being of people and the environment, but has also changed the way we view laws and policies designed to protect the health and well-being of people and the environment.

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