Tag: lead poisoning

Kryptonite and Water

This March, I met an amazing young woman from Flint named Kayla Shannon at Freshwater Future’s All About Water conference in Detroit, Michigan.  This conference brought together an extraordinary group of people and organizations across the state from the grassroots, the environment and policy community, and academia, all committed to sharing their diverse experiences and knowledge about the current and growing water crises we face here in Michigan and the Great Lakes.  

A youth panel from Flint featured five young women who shared their personal and vivid experiences about growing up and living in a poisoned city where they cannot trust the very water from their tap.  Among these young women was Kayla Shannon, a 16-year-old writer and poet, who performed a piece called Kryptonite as spoken word.  Listen to the power of her voice.  Feel the strength of her conviction, her palpable grit and her desire for transformative change, equity, and decency.  

– Liz Kirkwood


Kryptonite ©
By: Kayla Shannon

I’ve never been burned by fire
But I imagine that’s how it feels when you’re told your child tests positive for lead poisoning
Like being helpless
Like being mocked by the four Great Lakes your state touches
To live in my city
Is to know of friendship with poison
Having your life source spiked by Grim Reaper
It is living like third world country
As a citizen of the most powerful nation in the world
Cause see, you never know what you have until it’s gone
So maybe our emergency managers were hoping to teach us appreciation
At 6, I thought the most important thing in the world was money
At 16, I’m learning that even the things I need to survive aren’t promised
That the monsters aren’t under my bed, they’re sitting in office
And I am convinced that my Governor graduated valedictorian of White Supremacy University
With a masters in gentrification
That his biggest dream as a child was to become a king
But since America is a democracy
And he way under qualified to become president
He settled for the next best thing
I am convinced that he played war games as a child instead of freeze tag
It’s the only reason I’ve been able to think of for why he saw Flint’s well being as an afterthought
After stress, after pain, after death
Saw an easy target standing still
Took his shot with both eyes open
Is it possible for a city to be your home, and still your biggest weakness?
This lead be Kryptonite
A silent killer for cowards
He attacked us, using our homes as a weapon
Shot lead bullets into our bloodstreams
Called it an accident, a misstep
When in reality, it was the beginning of a war he waged without our permission
But Flintstones be superhuman
Our powers boundless despite our enemies attempts to use our strength against us
Just last week, I met a woman strong enough to lift her whole family out of debt
Saw a city fly in to rescue their neighbors
My best friend been using her battle scars as motivation
Our government thought they broke something
Maybe out hope, along with our infrastructure
When in reality, they rewrote something
Gave our comic book new beginning
Cause see Flint, can’t spark fire till you hit it
And yeah, my city been hit
But our backbones are stronger than they could ever imagine
Yeah, my city been hit
But we’ve been fighting for years to keep our heads above water
So, warfare comes as nothing new to us
Step back, and watch us do what we’re best at
Cause see, nothing ever been handed to us easy, or simple
Every plot involving black characters comes with a twist
And we’ve never been able to back down
So, yes
My home is being used as Kryptonite
But Superman ain’t lost a fight yet


About the author:

I came from large a family, which opened me to many different perspectives of life from an early age. My hero is really multiple people. I look up to anyone who raises their voices to accomplish a goal for the betterment of society, even on issues that do not necessarily affect them personally. My motivation is the work that still needs to be done. My motivation is also the knowledge that there are generations to come that will be affected my decisions, good or bad. I hope for a time when everyone will recognize injustice within our society. As they say, the first step to change is understanding that a problem exists. I yearn not for perfection, but for the drive that causes improvement to be achieved over time.

Pre-crisis I was in middle school, so most talk was the average: boys, homework, and homework. Now, I speak more with them about the future pertaining to the city of Flint. There is fear, anger, and mistrust within the city that needs to be addressed before they worsen. I want people to know that I am a 16-year-old sophomore who is passionate about social justice work. I have been heavily involved in this work for about three years now and it has majorly impacted my life path. I have traveled the country performing spoken word in places such as Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco. Although I have accomplished a lot, I thank God every day for every blessing, because without him, I would not be who I am.


An Overview of the Flint Water Crisis

By Meredith Murray, FLOW intern

What are regulatory agencies doing to fix the problem?

Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting an investigation over the steps taken to address Flint’s drinking water issues following State Representative Dan Kildee (D-Flint) and State Minority Leader Jim Ananich’s (D-Flint) written requests. Along with the EPA investigation, Michigan legislators are pushing for a review of the controversy over the EPA’s oversight on Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

State Representatives Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint) and Phil Phelps (D-Flushing) assert that MDEQ withheld information on the water quality from the Flint River in order to meet federal drinking water quality standards. The legislators are also requesting for the dismissal of Dan Wyant as the Director of the MDEQ.

What went wrong?

Flint’s drinking water crisis began in April of 2014 when the city of Flint decided to stop receiving their drinking water from the Detroit water supply. The plan was to switch over to a new water supplier (Karegnandi Water Authority). The high water rates imposed on Flint residents and budget cuts in the Flint financial management plan were the reasons behind the switch in suppliers.

But there was a problem: Karegnandi will not be done constructing their new water lines to draw water from Lake Huron until sometime in 2016. In the meantime, Flint officials decided to temporarily draw their drinking water from the Flint River. However, as soon as the switch was made from the Detroit water supply to the Flint River, Flint residents complained about the odor and coloration of their drinking water.

Resident complaints grew, and ‘boiling advisories’ were soon issued to kill off harmful bacteria  in the water due to the aging water lines. Water tests soon revealed high levels of a chlorination byproduct linked to cancer and other associated health problems.

Even with the drinking water advisory notices, residents were told by city officials that the water was safe to drink.

In September of 2015 – over a year after extracting water from the Flint River – a group of researchers from Virginia Tech tested hundreds of water samples and found 40% of the samples to contain high levels of lead. Due to the corrosive nature of the Flint River water, lead from the aging pipes was leaching into the City’s drinking water, and blood tests of Flint children showed elevated lead levels.

These results clearly indicated that Flint had to stop receiving their drinking water from the Flint River, and reconnect to the Detroit water supply. The switch was made October 16, 2015 to the Detroit water supply with the help of $9.35 million authorized by Governor Rick Snyder.

Is the problem fixed?

The problem to Flint’s water crisis is not resolved. Even after three weeks with the city of Flint reconnected to the Detroit water supply, advisories are being given to hold off on drinking the tap water unless there is an installed water filter. Leaching of lead into the drinking water from old pipes is still possible because the protective layer to prevent corrosion in the pipes is worn away.

Flint residents are also facing the issue of water shutoffs. Many Flint residents stopped paying their water bills once they found out their water was not drinkable. But after Flint reconnected with the Detroit water supply, the city started notifying those residents that they will issue shut offs if bills are not paid.

For up-to-date information on the Flint water crisis you can visit: http://flintwaterstudy.org/