The Flint, Michigan water crisis.
In my experience as an investigative journalist I have found that sometimes the answers are right in front of your eyes, sometimes what is being hidden, as in the case of surveillance, intentional detention, and even things as disruptive as preemptive nuclear strikes against China, are written in plain sight. I have always had a knack for discovery, partly the reason why I think that I chose this profession, because it’s adventurous and dangerous, and in almost the same way that great explorers discover hidden places on earth, it is our job as journalist to explore deeper into the unknowns of today’s major events.
According to CNN and several other mainstream news out lets, the situation in Flint began when Michigan officials switched the water supply for flint from Lake Huron (which they were then paying the city of Detroit for), to the Flint River (which according to local residents was extremely polluted). The Flint river from decades of run off from several auto-manufacturing plants had an acidic quality that quickly started to breakdown the city’s pipes and released dangerous levels of lead into the communities water. Lead is considered extremely toxic especially in the developing stages of life. Lead contamination at even the smallest levels can be hazardous to people’s health.
Before this morning we haven’t had the chance to really dig into the toxic plume which is Flint, Michigan, but by this point it’s obvious that this disaster has far-reaching implications. In case you somehow missed it, the drinking water in and around the city of flint has toxic levels of lead in it, with the metal showing up in residents’ blood streams in very damaging levels.
Upon researching this event’s causes, and looking at what solutions our political leadership are putting forward I found that the variable players and news companies involved are treating it more like a political boxing match than a national health disaster. Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took the obvious route which many other members of his party and assorted liberal activists such as Michael Moore have done blame the Governor and call for his resignation. The reason I say “obvious” in this context is that Rick Snyder’s handling of Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis has become somewhat of a rallying call for Democrats critical of GOP austerity. Michigan had been run by a Democrat (Jennifer Granholm) from 2003 until a Republican (Rick Snyder) became Michigan’s 48th governor in 2011, but still why not just blame him, right? (Even though the mayor is a two term republican that presents himself as a bipartisan nerd who was originally appointed by a democrat) It is to the point now where the story becomes more about political posturing and positioning then about helping people, American citizens, who are in need of one of the most basic essentials to human life, clean water.
Recent headlines read:
The truth however does not have a partisan.
As it turns out, people knew about the horrible water situation long before the Governor ever caught wind of it. And when you think of a government agency in the same sentence as a disaster in a water supply, who do you think of first? of course the EPA, “The Environmental Protection Agency”. As one Daily Caller found out, the EPA was looking into this almost a year before it went mainstream but buried the topic in an internal fight.
EPA official Susan Hedman did not publicize the EPA’s concern over Flint’s water quality or the water’s dangerous health concerns. The federal agency instead quietly fought with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for at least six months about what should be done.
EPA water expert, Miguel Del Toral, identified potential contamination problems with Flint’s drinking water last February and confirmed the suspicions in April. He authored an internal memo about the problem in June, according to documents obtained by Virginia Tech.
Meanwhile, Hedman became aware of the contamination issue in April. She sought legal advice, but didn’t receive the guidance until November 2014. The American Civil Liberties Union accused Hedman in October of attempting to keep Miguel Del Toral’s memo in-house, downplaying its significance.
This would be shocking if we weren’t talking about the EPA and their state level counterparts in Michigan. Sadly today these things are not that much of a surprise. The people best equipped (allegedly) to deal with the problem knew about it in February of last year. By mid-summer the Governor’s office had been made aware by residents that there were “complaints” about the water being discolored and tasting bad, but he wasn’t informed of any real toxic level problems until Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha from the pediatric ward of Flint’s Hurley Medical Center started seeing more and more of Flint’s children experiencing rashes and hair loss.
“When (my research team and I) saw that it was getting into children and when we knew the consequences, that’s when I think we began not to sleep,” Hanna-Attisha said.
At first, the state publicly denounced her work, saying she was causing near hysteria. They spent a week attacking her before reversing their narrative and admitting she was right.
“Their information wasn’t flawed. They had the data, but they were being told by the DEQ that there wasn’t a problem, they just dismissed it,” said Hanna-Attisha and confirmed by the state-appointed task force. “There was almost like blinders on,” she added. CNN contacted DEQ’s former director, Dan Wyant, who made the decision and later resigned over the issue. He did not respond.
Just a few weeks later, in October, the city reverted to using Detroit’s Lake Huron water supply, but the damage was already done to the pipes the acids in the river water has now corroded the pipes receiving more moderate but less harmful levels of metal toxicity.
Perhaps it is inevitable, but still it is a crying shame that people are out to profit politically from the lead poisoning of 100’s if not 1000’s of children. “Politically, this is a goldmine for Democrats” said Lynn Aronoff, a GOP consultant and former Michigan-based aide for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Rick Snyder, until recently was a rising GOP star and potential vice presidential contender. Now he is scrambling to salvage his political career. Just a few months ago, Snyder was winning acclaim as part a new breed of Midwestern Republican politicians, a governor who might someday run for the White House himself or join the GOP ticket in 2016. Now everyone wants to Blame Snyder, but Snyder has rejected the possibility of resigning, in a recent State of the State speech he responded vowed to release the past two years’ worth of his emails relating to the situation.
“I’m sorry, and I will fix it,”
Snyder said near the opening of his 50-minute speech;
“You deserve better,” Snyder told citizens during the speech before the Michigan state legislature. “You deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me. Most of all you deserve to know the truth, and I have a responsibility to tell the truth.”
But, at the same time, the Republican governor blamed the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and the federal Environmental Protection Agency for “failing to “systematically identify and solve the problem.” Snyder also took a dig at President Barack Obama, saying he plans to appeal the president’s decision not to grant a major disaster declaration — a designation usually reserved for natural disasters, but which would open the door to Snyder’s $96 million request for federal aid. Obama instead declared a federal emergency on Saturday and directed $5 million worth of aid to Flint.
“I want to solve this problem,” Snyder said in the National Journal interview. “I don’t want to walk away from it.” But he has also dismissed “political statements and finger pointing from political candidates [that] only distract from solving the Flint water crisis.”
Beyond the debate over who’s to blame, Governor Snyder, of course, does have to admit some responsibility here and, to his credit, has acknowledged as much. No reasonable person expects the governor to show up in Flint with a white glove and personally eyeball what the local water-treatment plant is up to, but the people he appointed did an insufficient job. It is ironic, given the tenor of the denunciations, that Governor Snyder is as guilty of excessive bipartisanship as of any other offense: In his want to keep Flint under the watch of an emergency manager with whom the locals were comfortable, he may have overlooked better candidates with more thoroughgoing approaches to reform. If you’ve followed Flint’s history of nearly criminal level miss-governance, you would know that what was needed was more of an iron fist the a pair of sparkling white gloves.
By 2013 half of Michigan’s majority African-Americans lived under an appointed Emergency Management.
The bulk of the public criticism has focused on Snyder, whose appointees and agencies made key decisions that led to the contamination and then hampered efforts to respond to it. In 2012, Snyder signed a law allowing the state to appoint emergency managers to oversee financially struggling municipalities, despite voters’ rejection of a similar measure. A year later, when Flint was being run by a Snyder-appointed emergency manager, the city began drawing its drinking water from the Flint River, instead of continuing to purchase treated Lake Huron water from Detroit. That was meant to be a temporary move until a new water supply could come online. But when the notoriously polluted river’s water started flowing through the city’s pipes in April 2014, the city failed to treat it with the anti-corrosion additives required by federal law. Soon, both lead and iron from those pipes was pouring into Flint’s homes. City and state officials assured worried residents for nearly two years that the water was safe — until independent tests showed it was not. Public acknowledgment by Snyder and other state officials of the problem in October came months after the governor’s now-departed chief of staff warned that residents’ concerns were being “blown off.” The state’s environmental chief stepped down at the end of December over the lagged response, but it took until this month for Snyder to declare his own state of emergency and bring in the National Guard to help distribute clean water.
Lead is a potent neurotoxin and has long been known to affect brain functions and cause behavioral problems.
“This is not a case of not enough resources,” he said. “It’s not a case of even something as sad but explainable as incompetence. This is willfully ignoring warning signs because they didn’t want to have a public relations problem.”
After the speech, Snyder’s request for more state spending was blasted as being insufficient.
“For those who think $28 million will begin to remedy the Flint water crisis, that is a fraction of the money city residents have paid for poisoned water that they cannot drink,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee. said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Flint deserves an immediate response equal to the gravity of this ongoing public health emergency
See the timeline Governor Snyder released detailing the steps his officials have taken already.
So what now?
You can’t put a dollar amount of the devastation to our community. Currently there is a class-action lawsuit, against the governor, the State of Michigan, and the city of flint, requesting reparations for what they say is pursued on behalf of tens of thousands of residents (“Class”) of the City of Flint, who from April 25, 2014 to the present, have experienced and will continue to experience serious personal injury and property damage caused by Defendants’ deliberate decision to expose them to the extreme toxicity of water pumped from the Flint River into their homes, schools, hospitals, workplaces and public places. Michael Moore has enacted a petition to arrest Governor Snyder michaelmoore.com/ArrestGovSnyder#signup-form which is at the bottom of http://michaelmoore.com/ArrestGovSnyder. The Governor has refused to resign from his position. Snyder should resign if he is found to have known about the problem and ignored it.Polling on Snyder’s job approval rating after his very public apology should paint a clearer picture. As recently as June, Snyder was doing pretty well in a blue-leaning state, with a 55 percent approval rating. That existing goodwill could be important when it comes to people believing Snyder wasn’t in the wrong in this particular case.
One thing’s certain: For the people in Flint who spent nearly 18 months trying to avoid the city’s water while their government told them it was safe to drink — and especially for those sickened or even killed by the water — there may be no amount of reparations that can make things better. Snyder appears to recognize that.
Whether everyone else in the state believes that his sincerity is enough is the question that has yet to be answered.
Rick Snyder’s released Flint Water Emails
Not a joke!