UN Inserts Itself in Flint Water Investigation, Says Racism, Class Discrimination to Blame

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: May 04, 2016 8:30 AM
UN Inserts Itself in Flint Water Investigation, Says Racism, Class Discrimination to Blame

The United Nations may weigh in on the investigation of Flint’s contaminated drinking water after human rights experts in Switzerland said racism and class discrimination played major roles in the crisis.

The U.N. human rights office in Geneva called on authorities to draw up a “human rights complaint strategy” to address the crisis, a day ahead of a planned visit by President Obama to the Michigan city to talk with residents and local officials.

Experts in the U.N. office say the human rights complaint could be lodged in order to ensure that other U.S. municipalities don’t make the same mistakes that local, state and federal officials made in handling Flint’s water supply needs, which has left residents dealing with the health impact of lead-contaminated water.

“Decisions would never have been made in the high-handed and cavalier manner that occurred in Flintif the affected population group was well-off or overwhelmingly white,” Philip Alston, the U.N.Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Elected officials would have been much more careful, there would have been a timely response to complaints rather than summary dismissals of concerns, and official accountability would have been insisted upon much sooner,” he continued.

“The fact that Flint residents have not had regular access to safe drinking water and sanitation since April 2014 is a potential violation of their human rights,” said Leo Heller, the U.N.’s top expert on the right to safe drinking water. “Serious problems reported on water quality, particularly high concentrations of lead, are also concerning human rights issues.”

Gov. Rick Snyder is hoping that President Obama will drink Flint’s water during his visit to prove to residents that it’s safe to drink when filtered.

“We are hopeful the president will drink the water in Flint, to help reinforce Gov. Snyder’s actions and the EPA’s message that filtered Flint water is safe to drink,” Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton told The Huffington Post. 

Unfiltered water is still not safe to drink, however.