I’m starting today’s news round-up by featuring an essay published by Ann Arbor social worker Beverly Davidson, LMSW, at her “Voices from the Infant, Toddler and Family Field” blog. The post is titled “No words” and the title is cruelly apt. Here’s a taste of what she saw during a recent day of volunteering in Flint:
We knocked on one door to deliver filters and water. A young man answered who was happy to see us. “Do you have a filter?” He does, but it did not fit, so we gave him another one which would work in his unit. I asked if he had had his water tested, and he was not sure. He showed me the testing bottle he had from his aunt’s house, which was on the floor of his car, but he could not find the paperwork to go with it (which is used for tracking and data analysis). I explained how he had to get his water tested, making sure he understood to use unfiltered water that had been in the tap for at least 6 hours. He had no idea he had to do this, as he had not heard that filtered water was not safe to drink either. […]
Knock. knock. A young mom answers her door and we ask if she needs water or a filter. She needed both, and I asked if there were any urgent medical issues. She said her baby had a bad skin rash after a bath the other day, “but it’s ok, it went away today.” NO, NO, NO, it’s not ok. In the state of Michigan in 2016, a mother should be able to joyfully give her baby a bath and trust that her baby will be safe from skin rashes. The saddest part is that this young mom just accepted this without much anger or question. She has learned to live in a world that has treated her less than for so long that she readily accepts that her home is giving her baby skin rashes.
There’s much more. Please read “the whole essay.
Union members doing the work the State of Michigan so far has failed to do
Working with Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI), hundreds of union plumbers are doing the hard work of starting the process of replacing lead-containing plumbing components in Flint:
Members of Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) hit the streets Saturday 300 strong to install donated faucets and other plumbing in homes of residents affected by Flint’s water crisis.
PMI members gathered at 7 a.m. at the UA Local 370 Union Hall, located at 5500 West Pierson Road in Flushing, on Saturday, Jan. 30. The members took the donated faucets and supplies, as well as Brita water filters provided by the state before beginning work in houses and apartment buildings throughout Flint.
“PMI is proud to join with its members and the UA to put our vision of safe, responsible plumbing into action,” said Barbara C. Higgens, PMI CEO and executive director in a statement. “We appreciate the generosity of our members, the UA plumbers, IAPMO and everyone else that is helping to assure safe drinking water for the residents of the Flint area.”
The 300 plumbers are from local unions from across the country.
Here is a link to some photos taken during their day in Flint:
Not only is this noteworthy just for what it is (and in stark contrast to the Republicans appearing in CYA photos), but…
Four months after admitting the problems in Flint, the Snyder administration finally has a list of action items
It’s taken nearly four months since they first admitted to a problem with the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water, an admission that came months after proof was already available, the Snyder administration is finally prepared to roll out their plan to resolve the crisis:
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will present its comprehensive testing plan for Flint water to federal officials today based on monitoring hundreds of new sites around the city and mapping all of the system’s lead piping that leached toxic metals into the city’s drinking water supply.
The goal is to come up with a reliable health assessment for much of the contaminated system by April 14, when the current state of emergency is to end.
Other state officials said it’s possible that various portions of the city could be given an all-clear in conjunction with local, federal and independent experts before mid-April on a rolling basis. The process also is likely to identify so-called hot spots where more costly remediation, including lead pipe replacement all the way to the tap, may be necessary, officials said.
Better late than never. Barely.
Meanwhile, the federal government is already on the ground and making things happen
Yesterday, the federal government released a long list of actions they are taking and will take in the immediate future to help protect Flint residents from lead contamination. The list includes things like:
- Testing of the tap water of Flint residents
- Distributing water, water filters, replacement cartridges, and testing kits
- Inspection of the home water systems of Flint residents
- Working with the operators of Flint’s water treatment plant
- Auditing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) drinking water program
- Issuance of a Safe Drinking Water Act Emergency Order to ensure the state and city immediately take actions necessary to protect public health which requires the State of Michigan and City of Flint to take a series of immediate steps to address the drinking water contamination in Flint
- Establishment of a Flint Safe Drinking Water Task Force comprised of EPA scientists who are internationally recognized experts in the field of lead in drinking water
- Authorized participants in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to use WIC vouchers for ready-to-feed infant formula, which does not need to be mixed with water
- Approval of the Michigan Department of Education’s $62,700 request in additional funds for the USDA Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program (foods high in Vitamin C are among the foods recommended by the CDC that may help keep lead out of the body, along with foods high in calcium and iron
You can read the entire list HERE.
Unfortunately, the USDA rejected a request from the Snyder administration to allow access to WIC for children between the ages of 5 and 10 (the current cut-off is for 5-year olds.) Federal law prevents this, they said, and such a move would require action by the Republican-led Congress.
Flint Children’s hospital has some of the highest lead levels in the city
Whaley Children’s Center is one of the locations in Flint with elevated lead levels, according to testing results posted on the state’s website.
Whaley Children’s Center, located at 1201 North Grand Traverse Street, had water testing done on Dec. 29 and Jan. 7. The results from those tests show the lead levels at the facility ranges between 0 parts per billion and 2,516 ppb. The copper results show ranges between 0 ppb and 5,430 ppb.
The federal action level for lead in water is 15 ppb and copper is 1,300 ppb.
There are 60 results on the Friday, Jan. 29, results page. Of those, 15 were over the action level for lead and six were over the action level for copper. […]
Two of the recent test results were the third and fourth highest recorded in the city.
Michigan Attorney General to DEQ workers being sued: “You’re on your own”
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality who have been named in a lawsuit stemming from the contamination of Flint’s drinking water will get no legal assistance from the state government, according to a statement released by Attorney General Bill Schuette:
A new legal migraine could be kicking in for seven Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees who are being sued over the Flint water crisis.
State Attorney General Bill Schuette said his office can’t defend them and they need to find their own lawyers, according to a new federal court filing.
In a move that could suggest friction is building between various state agencies over the Flint fiasco, Schuette said that his office can defend the governor and state, but not the DEQ, because their interests could be at odds as defendants in the case.
“As the issues surrounding the situation in Flint have unfolded, particularly in the last week, it has become apparent that there is a potential conflict of interest between the Governor and State of Michigan on the one hand, and the individual MDEQ employees on the other,” Schuette wrote in a late Friday filing in the court case. “Given this conflict, counsel have determined it is likely they cannot effective represent both sets of clients.”
That’s the definition of being thrown under the bus for political reasons.
Scandal-ridden chief of state’s Flint task force thinks Flint represents “a real opportunity”
As I written about recently, Gov. Rick Snyder put his scandal-ridden aide Richard Baird in charge of a state task force responding to the catastrophe there. Baird says Flint represents “a real opportunity”:
On the fifth floor of a state office building in downtown, Richard Baird, top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder, convened a closed-door meeting of a dozen top state officials charged with a dual task aimed at fixing Flint.
The first and most immediate is helping the city restore its water supply to a safe drinking level and to treat those who may have consumed the city’s lead-tainted water. The group says it will do that in conjunction with residents, local and federal officials and independent experts. […]
But the group’s other goal could be even more far reaching: Transform a hard-bitten city of nearly 100,000 suffering from years of population loss, unemployment and high crime. The confirmation of elevated lead in the drinking water last year has only increased the city’s woes and darkened its outlook.
“We think there is a real opportunity here,” Baird said in an interview after the meeting Friday.
Flint residents and other observers are understandably dubious about trusting the man responsible for the now-defunct “Skunkworks” effort to turn public education into a voucher system and who used his political influence inside the Snyder administration to benefit donors and other supporters. The actions of this task force should be watched closely to ensure they are doing what’s best for Flint residents not what’s best for their corporate benefactors.
Democratic presidential candidates bicker over locating a debate in Flint
The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders engaged in a press release war over the weekend regarding additional presidential debates they are attempting to schedule. The Clinton campaign wants one in Flint just prior to the Michigan primary on March 8th. The Sanders campaign agreed but only if they’ll do one in Brooklyn, New York, too.
Here’s the Sanders’ campaign’s statement:
“After refusing for months to participate in more debates, Secretary Clinton requested that the Democratic National Committee rules be changed and that a new debate take place in New Hampshire next week. We agreed pending an agreement on three future debates in March, April and May. Unfortunately, the Clinton campaign has not accepted debates we proposed on March 3 in Michigan and April 14 in New York. They apparently agreed to May 24 in California. The Clinton campaign, after not accepting Michigan, now says they want it. We are pleased to do it on March 3 before the Michigan primary provided the Clinton campaign will agree to Brooklyn, New York, on April 14. Why won’t they debate in Brooklyn? What’s the matter with Brooklyn?”
And here is the Clinton campaign’s response:
“There is nothing worse than a debate about debates. From our perspective, this is pretty simple. The people of New Hampshire wanted a debate. We said Secretary Clinton would be there. The Sanders campaign said their candidate would only come if we agreed to three additional debates, one each in March, April, and May. We agreed to that. The Sanders campaign further asked that these debates not take place on weekends or holidays. We agreed to that as well, and offered date windows accordingly. The Sanders campaign proposal has been met in all respects. Now they refuse to take yes for an answer, apparently because they are intent on avoiding a debate in New Hampshire. Enough of the games. We are prepared to show up for a debate next Thursday and for three additional debates in the months ahead, which we can all work together to schedule. We hope Senator Sanders will be there too. If the Sanders campaign decides to reject the debate next week, we’ll let them answer to the voters of New Hampshire.
“One additional note. We made the modest suggestion that one of the three additional debates take place in Flint, Michigan, to shine a spotlight on what’s happening there and in places like Flint around the country. The Sanders campaign never responded. We’re not sure why, but if they’d rather not debate in Flint, we’re certainly willing to mutually agree on three other locations.”
Former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling takes Snyder administration to task in latest interview
Former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling reiterated the fact that the decision to switch the source of Flint’s drinking water to the Flint River came from the state-appointed overseer, the Emergency Manager, in a far-reaching interview with Michigan Radio:
The governor’s office has released emails from 2014 and 2015 regarding the Flint water situation, but have not provided any insight into the switch from Detroit water to the KWA that happened in 2013.
“And I have a real problem with this too, because in the State of the State, the governor starts the Flint water story with March of 2013, leaves out the fact that the emergency manager was the one who brought the recommendation to myself and city council, and then has also not released his emails [for 2013],” Walling says.
“What’s happening in 2013 that we can’t know about? Why is our governor withholding his correspondence about the KWA, and is there anything in there about the Flint River? Because that is not what we were hearing locally.”
It’s a reasonable question that many are asking.
Listen to the entire informative interview HERE.
After throwing state employees under the bus, Gov. Snyder tells them they’re doing a great job
I recently wrote about Gov. Snyder’s appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe where hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski fawned over our Republican governor last week. In that interview, he blamed the Flint water debacle on “career service people” in his administration.
This morning I received an email from someone who works for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) who had this perspective to share:
On Friday, January 22, Snyder went on Morning Joe and threw State employees under the bus. That afternoon, all State employees got an email from Snyder with a recording of his appearance and a message about how “he’s his own best spokesperson.” They wanted state employees to know what a great job he did on MSNBC. Then, that same day, at 4:30 p.m., all state employees got another email asking us if we would like to volunteer in Flint the following day. (Strictly on a volunteer basis and no reimbursement for mileage.)
Then, this past week, we got a thank you email from Snyder telling us what a great job we’re doing.
Needless to say, I now delete all his emails.