In July of 2022, the Lockhart Chemical Company located in Flint, Michigan, was identified as releasing discharge from a storm sewer due to a main breach. As of September 19, 2022, the company has been ordered to stop the usage of their wastewater and stormwater conveyance systems, which have been proven defective.
The news of the spill is an additional tragedy contributing to the Flint water crisis, in which lead from aging pipes exposed around 100,000 residents to high lead levels after failure from officials to apply corrosion inhibitors. The order was authorized under Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. Three months after the spill, thousands of gallons of waste oil have been collected.
According to WNEM of Saginaw, the Lockhart Chemical Company was operating under a cease and desist letter from the city of Flint, ordering the company to not discharge any liquid waste from their on-site tanks into the city’s sewer system.
“As a citizen of Flint who grew up blocks away from the Flint River and was a teenager through the time of the water crisis, it’s extremely frustrating to see this repeated disregard for not only the health of the citizens, but the health of the local environment as well,” said Audrey Plouffe (’23)
Dr. Amanda Harwood, an associate professor of Environmental Studies and Biology, also shared her thoughts on the matter. “Unfortunately, this is just another example of a company violating their operating permits. [Enviornment, Great Lakes, and Engery (EGLE)] and now the Attorney General are doing what is in their legal power to stop these violations and prevent further ones,” said Harwood.
“If people are concerned about continued violations and continued risks to humans and the environment, the best thing they can do is make their voices heard publicly by elected officials. One simple way to do this is to vote for candidates who support stronger environmental regulations and their enforcement.”
The state of Michigan claims that they are committed to helping Flint recover from the public health crisis. Michigan has provided more than $350 million to the city of Flint, along with $100 million from the federal government that supports water quality improvements, pipe replacement, food and educational resources, healthcare, and job training and creation. However, there are many more ways that action can be taken besides providing monetary support, including raising awareness around the situation in Flint and voting for officials that insist on creating change in the upcoming election.
“When things like this happen anywhere, not just in Flint, the culprits would far rather it be forgotten and brushed aside, but we have a responsibility to ourselves, others, and the world we live in to not let that happen,” said Plouffe.