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Rasheed Wallace: Flint “Looks Like a Third-World Country”

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Former Trail Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace says Flint, Michigan’s water issues are “definitely a crisis,” urges action.

Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics, Game 2 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Retired NBA big man and former Trail Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace is imploring the public to keep Flint, Michigan’s water crisis on the front burner.

Wallace spoke about the critical water issues in Flint, his outreach work, and the need to continue holding public officials accountable on Kevin Garnett’s NBA on TNT show Area 21:

It’s a definitely a crisis. The things that’s going on up there in Flint... you wouldn’t even think that it’s part of the United States if you went up there and looked at it. It looks like a third-world country, bro. You might have, like, 15 or 20 houses on a block, and only, like, two of them are occupied.

The City of Flint commissioned a report in 2011 that concluded a newer, less expensive water source could be used to cut costs. In 2013, the decision was made to switch, despite Michigan state officials warning that the new water source could carry elevated levels of pollutants. The following year, plans were scrapped to mitigate the corrosion in Flint’s existing pipes. Water treatment staff warned that the city wasn’t ready for the switch, but those warnings were again ignored.

The result: Flint residents have been stuck with tap water tainted by trihalmethanes and lead, making the water unsafe to drink, bathe in, cook or brush their teeth with. Despite the risks both before and after the water source switch, city and state officials have at various times attempted to minimize concerns, putting residents at serious risk and delaying responses and efforts to fix the problem.

Garnett alluded to poor government oversight, and Wallace responded by placing responsibility on Michigan Governor Rick Snyder:

The Governor knew about this, B. The Governor knew about this. Before this broke news, the Governor had sent water trucks up there for the government workers, while everyone else was still, you know, on that City water. So, I mean, that’s tellin’ you something, right? Obviously he had to know that it was messed up. And if you knew, and you still let it go on? Come on, dog. You gotta be held responsible for that.

Wallace has a personal interest in Michigan issues, having spent over five seasons with the Detroit Pistons from 2003-09, and has actively assisted those affected during the crisis. After driving cases of water to Flint residents last February, Wallace later went from house to house delivering potable water. He’s also been an outspoken advocate for more federal assistance to help solve the water crisis, writing about the issue in a piece for The Players’ Tribune back in October.

You can watch his full appearance on Garnett’s Area 21 below:

Wallace played eight seasons in Portland, averaging 16.8 points, seven rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and a steal per game while leading the Blazers to their most recent Western Conference Finals appearances in 1999 and 2000. He made four NBA All-Star appearances over the course of his 16-year career, and won an NBA Championship in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons.


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