5 years later, Flint residents remember and demand action for water crisis

Published: Apr. 25, 2019 at 12:12 PM EDT
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(4/25/2019) - Five years after the city of Flint switched to drawing drinking water from the Flint River, residents are working to recover and move one without forgetting the ensuing Flint water crisis.

Then-Mayor Dayne Walling pressed the button making the official, money-saving switch to begin drawing Flint River water as the city's primary drinking source on this date in 2014.

The problem: It wasn't being properly treated, which caused high levels of lead to begin seeping into the tap water from the old, corroded pipe network, below ground.

Complaints of brown water, strong smells, rashes and illness exposed a citywide lead-poisoning health emergency that put lives at risk, ultimately turning into a deadly situation.

Five years later, 15 officials at all levels face criminal charges for their role in not doing enough to prevent the crisis, pipe replacement work continues throughout the city, filters are still being used and bottled water is still a staple in many homes.

State and city officials for months have said the water is continuously tested and easily passes federal standards. But trust in the government has been shattered for many residents and restoring it will be a long road.

Dozens of residents attended a memorial for the lives lost and a rally for continued action outside the Flint Water Treatment Plant to commemorate the fifth year of the ongoing crisis.

Many of the residents, who are a part of the H2O Justice Coalition, were wearing T-shirts to send a message that Flint is still broken five years after the crisis began.

The group laid out specific demands for making right what they call a man-made injustice done to the people of Flint. They are calling for a federal disaster declaration for the city, the elimination of the the emergency manager law in Michigan, the end of water shut-offs for residents and Medicare coverage for all.

Thursday's rally served as a somber reminder that Flint is still suffering from the effects crisis. The residents say lives have been forever changed and lives lost because of this water emergency.

The coalition released several Chinese lanterns in memory of the human casualties of the crisis. Two sisters were there mourning the loss of their dad.

The group is planned to take their fight to Lansing for another rally later Wednesday.