Bernie Sanders, Flint, Rick Snyder — January 16, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Bernie Sanders speaks out on #FlintWaterCrisis, Gov. Snyder asks for <10% of what's needed financially from feds


Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has finally joined Hillary Clinton in speaking out about the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water by the Snyder administration. In a statement released by his campaign, he calls for the resignation of Gov. Snyder:

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday called on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to resign for his administration’s failure to deal with a lead-poisoning crisis that has sickened thousands of children in Flint, Michigan.

“There are no excuses. The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing. As a result, hundreds of children were poisoned. Thousands may have been exposed to potential brain damage from lead. Gov. Snyder should resign,” Sanders said.

Problems with Flint’s public water system date to a decision nearly two years ago by a receiver, appointed by the governor, who decided to cut costs by drawing the city’s drinking water from the polluted Flint River instead of from Lake Huron.

The governor and other state officials knew – but did not acknowledge until last fall – that the river water was corroding pipes and causing lead to leach into the drinking water. The decision not to add chemicals to prevent corrosion of the pipes was made at the direction of the governor’s Department of Environmental Quality. The state health department in Michigan apparently knew about elevated lead levels in the blood of children but did not warn the public.

“Because of the conduct by Gov. Snyder’s administration and his refusal to take responsibility, families will suffer from lead poisoning for the rest of their lives. Children in Flint will be plagued with brain damage and other health problems. The people of Flint deserve more than an apology,” Sanders said.

Meanwhile, we now have details about Gov. Snyder’s request for federal assistance and it falls far short of what will be needed to fix the massive systemic infrastructure problems in Flint. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has estimated that the cost of replacing all of the lead-containing water lines in the city will cost upwards of $1.5 billion. How much is Gov. Snyder asking for in his request for a state of emergency declaration from the Obama administration? Just 6.4% of the amount needed for the pipeline replacement alone: $96 million:

Gov. Rick Snyder has asked President Barack Obama to declare a federal emergency in Flint and expedite $96 million in disaster relief for Genesee County as a result of the city’s lead-contaminated water crisis.

The White House on Friday promised a quick review of the request, which the governor made late Thursday night to help Flint residents and repair a public water pipeline infrastructure damaged by corrosive river water blamed for lead contamination. […]

“I have determined that this incident is potentially of such severity and magnitude that effective recovery is beyond the capabilities of the State of Michigan and the affected local governments and that federal relief assistance is necessary,” Snyder wrote in a nine-page letter to Obama that came nine days after he declared a state emergency in the city.

Documents show the Snyder administration’s request includes:

  • $54.6 million for the repair of damaged lead service lines on private property.
  • $10.3 million for 90 days of water.
  • $31 million for a year’s worth of filters and other water supplies.

The amount of money requested for explicitly pipeline replacement is actually only 3.6% of the $1.5 billion Mayor Weaver believes is needed. Strangely, Gov. Snyder seems to know his request is far short of what’s needed:

The governor’s application estimated the cost of replacing Flint’s water infrastructure at $712.8 million for public lines and $54.6 million for private lines.

So, why ask for only $54.6 million when that’s less than a tenth of what they admit it will cost? Where will the rest of the money come from, the amount needed to pay for replacing public water lines? If history is a guide, expect cuts to education and social programs with another tax break for big corporations tossed in for good measure (it’s an election year, after all.)

One final thing: it’s clear that The Detroit News is attempting to subtly sway public opinion on this. While nearly every other news organization is placing the blame for this human-made catastrophe squarely on the shoulders of Gov. Snyder and his incompetent administration, the The News deflects blame back on Flint officials when they make statements like this:

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality admitted it failed to force the city to treat the water with corrosion controls, which caused old lead connections to leech.

Let’s be clear about this. They didn’t just “fail to force the city to treat the water with corrosion controls.” They literally told the city it didn’t need to when they approved their water treatment plans for moving to the Flint River as the source of their drinking water. And when problems arose, DEQ had lead testing reports altered and took other steps to avoid taking action on the poisoning of the drinking water with lead.

The News appears to be intentionally perpetuating the myth that Flint officials are too incompetent to run the city. The truth is that the most colossal ineptitude in this story came from Snyder’s DEQ administrators and his hand-picked Emergency Managers like Darnell Earley, who functioned as a one-man government in Flint.


[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore | Flickr]