Art + Design, Change

Photo Essay: Two Years Later, the Flint Water Crisis Lingers

By Talia Mayden

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I’m sure you’ve seen Facebook posts about the Flint water crisis.

Terraca Rogers started noticing rashes on her three children’s skin in November 2015. She took them to the doctor and left without answers. She only got her answer when the Flint Water Crisis became national news.

About 2 years ago, the state decided to save money by switching Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the notoriously filthy Flint River. Soon after, the water coming out of the taps ran brown. Moreover, in violation of federal law, the Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent. Consequently, unbeknownst to the people of Flint, lead started leeching into the water supply.

The men, women, and children of Flint, Michigan drank lead-poisoned water for 18 months. And the crisis isn’t over.

Lead poisoning is irreversible. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, one of the main whistle-blowers on the crisis in Flint, said “If you were to put something in a population to keep them down for generation and generations to come, it would be lead[…]It’s a well-known, potent neurotoxin. There’s tons of evidence on what lead does to a child, and it is one of the most damning things that you can do to a population. It drops your IQ, it affects your behavior, it’s been linked to criminality, it has multigenerational impacts. There is no safe level of lead in a child.” Steps to mitigate lead exposure, such as early education and proper nutrition, are near impossible for a city with inadequate resources and no grocery store.

I came across Terraca Rogers after seeing her sink run brown on the news and hunted her down on Facebook. She graciously agreed to meet me along with her three children. Being in her house, joining her in picking up bottled water from the fire station, seeing the scars on her son’s hands from bathing in lead-poisoned water…the water crisis in Flint was no longer sympathetic Facebook posts and faux-outrage. It was very real. Driving home from my first meeting with Terraca, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. While not having safe running water created a pretty tangible obstacle in her family’s everyday life, it was easy to forget the effects the lead would have on her children and many, many others. They were happy, polite, normal kids. They watched TV. They did their chores. Shamaya laughed at her little sister Brianna while she blabbered into my microphone. Malik showed me his bedroom and his basketball jersey. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. I had to do something.

This is my attempt to make the Flint water crisis not just another shared article on Facebook, not just another source of faux-outrage to broadcast self-fulfilling social activism, not just a tragedy-du-jour of yesteryear. Malik has scars on his hands. Brianna has holes in her shirt from washing it in tainted water. Shamaya is only 12 years old but she scoffed at her little sister when she said “somebody will help us”.

I want you to meet the people of Flint.

Talia Mayden is an artist, singer/songwriter, and engineering school dropout from Nashville Tennessee. For more:

Donations to Red Cross Disaster Relief are being used to provide help right now by supporting volunteer recruitment, water distribution and other logistical efforts in Flint. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief.