In April 2014 Flint Michigan, switched its municipal water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage System to formerly disused system drawing water out of the Flint River. This switch, along with the decision not to add corrosion control chemicals into the water caused severe lead contamination, poisoning the citizens of Flint. The extent of this disaster remains unknown, as the negative health repercussions of lead exposure will continue to emerge in the children of Flint over the next decades. While the effects still remain to be seen, the cause can be analyzed in order to establish an understanding of what went wrong, and importantly what can be done into the future to prevent similar disasters from occurring.
The Flint crisis fits into the larger narrative of American neoliberal austerity policy, and environmental injustice. The crisis in Flint was not an accident, but instead the result of intentional policies put in place as part of a larger austerity plan by the Governor of Michigan and appointed emergency managers. These policies and other policies across the United States place harsh economic policy and political philosophy above the public health, safety and welfare of communities, particularly disadvantaged communities across the United States. These policies are part of a politics of displacement and expulsion where the basic services needed for community survival are reduced or eliminated in favor of fiscal policy.
In response to these politics it becomes clear the American urban planner must take a strong role in opposing these austerity policies. The planner, whose role is to protect the pubic health, safety, and welfare of a city, is uniquely placed to institute p policy which protects cities and citizens, particularly disadvantaged and under represented communities, from these intense and punishing programs of exclusion and expulsion. To prevent further disasters like Flint prioritization must be on transitioning economic and social policy from that of the austere city, to the just city.