“Water, Water Everywhere Nor Not A Drop To Drink…”

Note: I wrote this on January 17.  Since then, I have gotten stranded at the store on the 18th for almost 2 hours in 6 below weather (because the bus driver decided to skip the stop – he has done that numerous times but that’s a post for another day).  

I have also been quite ill but still doing my volunteer stuff because it is through a federal program (the Senior Companion Program) that pays $2.65/hr and I need money to buy a blood pressure monitor at the very least, or at most to pay for a trip to Pittsburgh to find out why I am so ill.

Basically, I have been getting up, taking the bus to my volunteer job, taking the bus home and going to bed.  On days off, if I don’t have problems like lack of water – or catfood – I stay in bed.  No Facebook, no email, no blog, nothing.

Today is a snow day, so I am home.  And feeling a bit better, enough to write, anyway.

Everything is worse, health-wise.  But, due to transportation issues, I am loathe to go to the ER.

Again, it comes down to one thing affecting another.

I can take the bus to the ER, yes.  That, with transfers, will take 1 1/2 hours.  If I am too sick I can call an ambulance.  And hope Medicaid pays for it.

But if, when I get the the hospital, they cannot figure out what’s wrong, and cannot come up with a diagnosis, then they cannot admit me.  Medicare/Medicaid will NOT pay for a hospital admission unless they have a diagnosis.

Most likely I would get discharged with an admonishment to see my pcp Dr. Wonderful.

The same Dr. Wonderful who told me he was stumped and would send me to Pittsburgh if I didn’t get better.  This is why I have doubts about the ER suddenly figuring it out, because Dr. Wonderful is very skilled and I doubt the ER is any smarter than he is.

Discharged probably after the last bus has already left for Hollidaysburg.  So then I will have no way to get home.  

Nothing is simple when you are poor.  Nothing.  Everything is complicated, takes at least twice as long to do, and has ramifications which you may or may not be able to foresee.

Ok…on the the blog post.

The title is a quote from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge.  But y’all probably knew that.

On January 16, 2016, President Obama declared a state of emergency for Flint, Michigan, due to the contamination of the public water supply.  The water there is so corrosive that it leached lead from pipes, making the lead in the drinking water 900 times the amount recommended as “safe” by the EPA.

How did this happen?  And why are so many citizens – especially children – hurt by this?

Well, in 2014 the city of Flint was not doing well, so to save money they decided to get its water supply from the Flint River, instead of the Detroit Municipal water supply.

The problem was, the water from the Flint River is so high in salt that it corroded pipes – pipes that are made of lead.

Lead.  That stuff you’re not supposed to ingest because it causes all kinds of problems, including brain damage.

Residents noticed the water started smelling like rotten eggs.  Sometimes it was discolored.  But time and time again, they were assured by the city that the water was safe.

Briefly (22 days) in 2014, residents were advised to boil their water, due to bacteria, but then were given the all-clear.

In March of 2015, the government of Flint announced that the water met all state and federal safety standards (“A Timeline of the Water Crisis in Flint Michigan”, Associated Press via the ABC News website, 1/16/16).

But by now, doctors were beginning to notice problems with children – and, despite the mean things written about them, it’s most likely they found this out because their parents brought them in to see those doctors.

Aside #1: “How could those parents let their children drink that? Too busy paying for their drugs and weaves?”  Read that, heard that, yep.  Racism and classism in one ignorant idea.

So the doctors contacted the powers-that-be in Flint and urged them to stop using water from the Flint River.  They were told that the water was safe.

Aside #2:  Let’s not have science get in the way of economic decisions.

It’s not until October of 2015 that Gov. Snyder attempted to do something about this problem, by approving $6 million to switch the water supply back to the Detroit system (Ibid).

A state of emergency was declared this month, but in the meantime, while all this was going on…

There were a few “water filter giveaways” around Flint – if you can get to the locations and can bring a copy of your water bill.  The city leaders are “developing a plan” for those who are homebound (Water Filter Giveaway Branches Out to Four Flint Locations”, Ron Fonger, MLive.com, 10/05/15).

ZeroWater has donated 5,000 tumblers to schools.  The United Way is donating 2,500 dispensers (Ibid).

There have been quite a few giveaways of water in gallon jugs (“Local Organizations Host Bottled Water Giveaways”, Lauren Chapman and James Felton, WNEM website, 9/28/2015).

All this is good.  But it doesn’t address the other issues that complicated this problem.

Do you know that, after all this, and the state switched the Flint water back to the Detroit system, 1,800 people got shut-off notices (“1,800 Shutoff Notices Issued in Flint”, ABC12 News website, 11/5/2015)??

That’s right.  They couldn’t use the poisonous water after the switch to the Flint River was made, but then when the city admitted they made a mistake they then went after the residents for money, after Flint got that $6 million grant to switch the system back.

Here’s the last line of the story I just referenced:

“Many people living in Flint have boycotted paying their water bill after a water emergency was declared, but the city says people have to keep paying their water bills no matter what”(Ibid).

And that’s part of the problem.  A completely callous misunderstanding of how poor people live and pay their bills.

“Well, I pay my bills so why shouldn’t everyone else have to?”  I can hear that from, well, just about everyone who never thinks beyond their front door.

So I am going to tell you why.

Imagine you are already struggling to pay bills.  You live on social security, or you have a minimum wage job, and you live in a neighborhood where the local store is one of those little stores that sells junk food, canned food, and minimal stuff like milk – a “convenience store”.

Sure, they take food stamps, but it will cost you sometimes as much as twice the price than if you went to a regular grocery store.

In other words, you live in a “food desert”:

“Food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.” – U.S.D.A. website.

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