Flint, Rick Snyder — January 30, 2016 at 10:31 am

#FlintWaterCrisis news round-up: Congressional hearing to hear from many players but not Gov. Snyder (and more!)


Congressional hearing to focus on attacking the USEPA and not the real cause of the Flint water crisis

The list of those invited to give testimony before the House U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform this coming Wednesday has been released and one name is glaringly missing: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Those who WILL give testimony are the current Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality chief Keith Creagh, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, acting deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Water at the EPA Joel Beauvais, EPA Midwest Region 5 Water Division water expert Miguel Del Toral, and Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards.

According to reporting by the Detroit Free Press, this committee hearing isn’t about figuring out who was responsible for the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water, it’s about making sure the blame gets pinned exclusively on the EPA:

Meanwhile, the House Oversight Committee staff made clear in a memo that the panel’s discussion next Wednesday will focus on the federal government’s role in enforcing and administering the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint. While Michigan’s DEQ was primarily responsible for enforcing federal water regulations in Flint, documents have shown that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency knew about tests revealing high levels of lead in Flint months earlier.

Please contact the Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz and let him know that it’s essential that his group hear from Gov. Snyder himself. You can call his office at (202) 225-7751, you can send an email (if you are a Chaffetz constituent only) by clicking HERE, or you can tweet at him using his Twitter handle @jasoninthehouse.

Top Democrat on Oversight and Government Reform wants documents from Gov. Snyder

Along with Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, House Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings sent a letter to Gov. Snyder asking for his correspondence from 2013 regarding the catastrophe in Flint:

Disappointed that Republican leaders of a congressional committee did not call Gov. Rick Snyder to testify at a hearing next week on the Flint water crisis, two Democratic members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee went to Snyder directly Friday to ask for e-mails related to Flint.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight panel, and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield sent a letter to Snyder asking for “all documents relating to the drinking water supply in Flint” received by his office, his staff, then-state Treasurer Andy Dillon and emergency managers appointed by him for Flint from January 2013 to the present.

“It appears that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, at the direction of (former DEQ Director) Dan Wyant, failed to promptly and properly respond to the Flint water crisis, and that he resigned for that reason,” Cummings and Lawrence wrote. “His sudden departure, however, raises serious questions about the state’s response to the Flint crisis.”

Here’s hoping they are successful because many of the critical decisions that led to the contamination of Flint’s drinking water with the powerful neurotoxin lead happened in 2013. Gov. Snyder conveniently avoided releasing those emails after his State of the State address.

Testing of Flint’s water reveals lead levels too high for filters to remove

Residents of Flint are being encouraged to obtain and use water filters to protect themselves and their families from lead in their drinking water. However, testing this past week has found that as many as 6% of the samples tested had lead levels that exceeded the filters’ limit of 150 parts per billion:

In the recent testing overseen by state and federal environmental protection officials, extremely high lead level levels were found in 26 samples of more than 4,000 collected. The samples had lead levels that exceeded 150 parts per billion. The lead filters distributed to residents and business in Flint by officials has a certified rating by the NSF International to treat water with up to 150 parts of lead per billion.

The 26 samples from unfiltered water collected since late December from around the city ranged between 153 parts per billion and more than 4,000 parts per billion. If tap water contains lead at levels exceeding action level by the federal Environmental Protection Agency of 15 parts per billion, the federal Centers for Disease Control recommends taking action to minimize exposure to the lead in the water, although no level of lead is considered safe.

In other words, Houston, we have a problem. A big, BIG problem. Let’s stop pretending otherwise. I’m talking to YOU, Bill Ballenger.

In response to this news, officials are recommending that pregnant women and children do not drink tap water until it has been tested and found to be safe:

Lead problem may extend beyond the city of Flint

Ruh roh, Raggy. It looks like it’s not just the poor people in Flint who may be exposed to lead-tainted water:

People who live in a suburban Burton neighborhood and are connected to Flint’s water system “may have also been affected by the water disaster,” according to a post Friday on Flint’s city government website.

The site lists numerous addresses in Burton along Cheyenne Avenue and Menominee Avenue, just south of Hemphill Road from Flint. The posting states that the list is not new and that officials of the affected municipalities have been notified.

More from The Detroit News:

Their water came from the Flint River — but they don’t live in Flint. They live half a block into the adjoining city of Burton, population 30,000, where 72 unfortunate addresses have been visited with all of the problems and none of the attention of the city only a few yards to their north. […]

On Menominee and on neighboring Cheyenne Avenue, two streets of small houses and plentiful American flags, residents were already well aware.

A few days earlier, Eleticia Flores was bundling her two granddaughters into the car for a trip to the fire station to pick up fresh bottles.

Wilkinson, a 24-year-old EMT, was displaying the $40 water filter he bought for himself before anyone offered to help, with its supposed six-month cartridges that last him only six weeks: “You can see how nasty it gets.”

Joseph Kus was describing the welts his wife gets on her back every time she takes a shower: “It looks like mosquito bites.”

Those water coolers in state government buildings were for the public to use, too

Responding to leaked documents that show the state government quietly provided bottled water to its employees in Flint during a time Flint residents were being told everything was okay with their water, the state government is saying that water was for the public, too.

Coolers full of purified water the state placed in its Flint State Office Building in January 2015 were available for use by members of the public, not just state employees who worked in Flint, a government spokesman said Friday.

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, also said that while the state has paid to rent the water coolers continuously since January 2015, the coolers weren’t refilled between July — when he said health concerns about the quality of Flint’s drinking water began to subside — and October, when water purchases resumed. […]

Buhs said the purchase of purified water was prompted by a city warning around Jan. 1, 2015 that total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), a by-product of the chlorine disinfectants added to the water to kill the bacteria, had exceeded federal limits in 2014. Though the notice said “corrective actions are not necessary,” Buhs said it also advised that those with severely compromised immune systems, infants, or elderly people were more vulnerable.

“Many of the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) clients that entered the building were members of those groups,” Buhs said.

That’s fine but the Flint residents were being told that their water was safe and this is a clear admission that at least some in the state government knew otherwise.

Flint announces biweekly curbside recycling for plastic water bottles

This is a Good Thing:

To prevent the pileup of empty bottles in landfills from the fallout of the city’s drinking water crisis, officials announced Thursday that residents will immediately have biweekly curbside pickup service.

With thousands of water bottle donations coming in by the hour to assist residents dealing with unusable tap water from corroded lead pipes, recycling companies have stepped up to keep Flint from becoming blighted by plastic.

As of Wednesday, emergency efforts have led to the distribution of 207,055 cases of water, according to the state.

Matt Flechter, recycling market development specialist with the state, said he hopes Flint will become a model city for recycling for doing its part to tackle the used containers.

“We want to make this process easy for people to get it done,” he said. “Recycling will be a normal order of business in Flint.” […]

While Shane Kelley, planner for the Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, wants to remind residents not to forget to recycle old water filters, they are only accepting PUR and Brita brands.

“With the help of volunteers, we are helping to create great solutions,” Kelley said. “We are working to provide safe, new filters to all residents.”

The state has provided residents with 97,342 water filters, which require frequent changing.

[CC image “Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Political Suicide” by DonkeyHotey | Flickr]