It’s 2019, nearly five years after the Flint, Michigan, water crisis became news nationwide. But the city is still struggling to get access to clean water.
Thankfully, rapper and actor Jaden Smith is stepping in by donating mobile water-filtration systems through the JUST Water foundation, which he co-founded.
The campaign is the product of the foundation’s partnership with First Trinity Baptist Church, and it hopes to address the concerns many residents have with the water being provided by the city.
In April 2018, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared Flint’s water crisis was over, explaining that the state would stop providing free bottled water to the city's residents. Since then, locals have struggled to regain access to clean water, gathering in the hundreds to pick up donations in long lines as late as last October.
Despite the state vowing the city’s water quality had been restored, residents do not trust the state. Instead, they choose to rely on nonprofits and privately run efforts bringing them clean water. But the water-bottle donations are drying up. So in order to fill the gap, Smith’s foundation is doing its part, offering The Water Box filtration technology to residents.
The mobile system helps consumers by testing the water and then filtering lead and other possible contaminants. Produced and engineered by the JUST Goods water company, the system could help save lives and give Flint residents back the trust that city and state officials were never able to provide.
Once again, private initiative and free markets prove that only they can respond to the needs of consumers expertly and efficiently.
Government Created Flint’s Water Crisis
Following the numerous reports of lead poisoning coming from Flint, news outlets jumped on the opportunity to put the blame on markets. However, the reality is that the only institution to blame for the widespread contamination is the government itself.
In early 2013, Michigan officials, as well as Flint’s city council, switched Flint’s water source to the new Karegnondi Water Authority. But KWA was scheduled to begin operating in 2016. In the meantime, the city hired an engineering firm to put the city’s own water plant into operation, using the Flint River and abandoning the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Despite this change, none of the officials took the necessary steps to treat the river’s corrosive water. As a result, the water absorbed lead from the city’s aging pipes, which in turn delivered toxic water to residents.
Because the city does not have to compete for customers, it has no incentives to think through any decision. The result is what we saw in Flint.
Now imagine a bottled-water company completely ignoring the fact that its water source is dangerous.
As the first cases of illness begin to pop up, the company is held liable for the harm done in a court of law. The cost of dealing with settlements and litigation as well as the damaged reputation eventually puts the company out of business. Unfortunately, governments don’t operate with this fear in mind. Federal and state governments are even shielded from liability in many cases thanks to the “sovereign immunity” doctrine.
When everything is taken into consideration, it’s clear that Flint residents never had a chance against state actors working to poison their water, whether the latter did so intentionally or not. Unfortunately, it is up to the private market to step up and do what the government failed to do. And thank God that’s an option.
Hopefully, Smith’s decision to help Flint residents will help raise awareness, reminding other cities and states that what happened in Michigan could happen anywhere else.