Mar 6, 2017
For three days in the beginning of March, Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park, Michigan residents were exposed to possible health hazards when a purported equipment malfunction at a main water treatment plant caused water pressure to drop to levels that could allow bacterial contamination. In spite of all the glowing descriptions of Detroit as a “reborn city,” descriptions that attracted wealthy investors and residents alike to downtown and midtown areas of the city, on those days Detroit was not a great place to live.
Notification of a potentially dangerous situation was handled in a haphazard way. Public alerts did not happen until well into the second day of the situation. People were instructed to boil all water to be ingested, but tens of thousands got the message after they had ingested it. Instead of widespread immediate notification like what happens in an “Amber Alert” or a Tornado Warning, news and information trickled out very slowly.
WHERE the boil-water area was and WHAT people needed to do took far too long to be communicated.
In this “information age” it IS possible to send a text saying, do NOT use the water at Henry Ford Hospital, and the Detroit Medical Center, in the New Center Area, in the Wayne State Area, in the Downtown/Riverfront area. There were 29 schools in the boil-water area and on the first day, teachers knew nothing about it!
Whether it was the Great Lakes Water Authority or whether it was city or state or county officials who dropped the ball, the lack of information was inexcusable. There is no “world class city” without clean water, and no fancy PR campaign can excuse the failure to notify the population of a health risk.