Flint — January 25, 2016 at 12:37 pm

#FlintWaterCrisis news round-up: Jeb! says poisoned water due to over-regulation, armed militia gets involved + more!


“Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Political Suicide” by by DonkeyHotey

First, just a reminder that Rachel Maddow will be broadcasting from a townhall meeting she’s holding in Flint on Wednesday evening. Watch the video announcement here:

Guests will include Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Lanice Lawson creator of Bottles for Babies, Curt Guyette of ACLU in Michigan, Bryn Mickle and Ron Fonger of The Flint Journal, Nancy Kaffer of the Detroit Free Press and many others. NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk will contribute to the coverage. Anne and I have secured press passes and will be there to cover it for Eclectablog.

Also, in case you missed it, Anne and I went to Flint on Saturday. Our photojournal and essay about what we found can be seen HERE.

Now, on with the news!

Jeb! Bush blames the Flint water crisis on – you guessed it, too much regulation

On Sunday, Jeb! Bush was interviewed by Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week” program. When asked about the human-caused catastrophe, Jeb! blamed it on our “complex, no-responsibility regulatory system”:

During an interview with Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week” program Sunday, Jan. 24, Bush called the water concerns “a tragedy and what we need to have it a 21st century set of rules,” according to a show transcript.

“It is horrific and it is related to the fact that we’ve created this complex, no-responsibility regulatory system, where the federal government, the state government, a regional government, local and county governments are all pointing fingers at one another,” he said.

Several people have called for Snyder’s resignation over the water woes in Flint, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, while Hillary Clinton has called the situation unconscionable.

When asked if Snyder had any responsibility over the issue, Bush said “Well, he’s taken — he’s taken responsibility. And I admire that. He’s not saying that it’s someone else’s fault. He’s rolling up his sleeves and trying to — trying to deal with this.”

Say what you will about what has transpired in Flint, too much regulation is not the issue. Public officials in the Snyder administration being over their heads and in positions they are not qualified, certainly played the biggest role. If Dan Wyant couldn’t properly adhere to federal Clean Water Act and Lead and Copper Rule regulations, he never should have been appointed to head the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. If this debacle was related to an overly-complicated regulatory environment, we’d be seeing this problem across the country which, of course, we are not. Thankfully.

This BS reminds me of The West Wing episode when Republican candidate for president Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda) was asked in a debate about debt relief for impoverished countries. “Senator, are you saying you’re opposed to debt relief for impoverished countries?” Vinick is asked by the moderator.

“No,” he replied. “We should forgive the debts but it’s not going to help… that’s not going to help those countries very much.”

When he’s asked what will help them, his answer is, “Tax cuts”.

They really only have a small handful of responses when things go wrong and one of them is “over-regulation!”

Decision to move to the Karegnondi Water Authority may not have been cost-saving

Motor City Muckraker has uncovered an email that suggests the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) wasn’t actually trying fleece Flint over supplying the city water. The decision to join the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) rather than remaining on the DWSD system was made by then-Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz on April 16, 2013. Just the day before, DWSD head Sue McCormick sent an email to attorney Jim Fausone saying that Flint could save money by staying with the DWSD because they were lowering their prices. Here’s a copy of the email he uncovered:

According to McCormick, Flint would actually have saved nearly a billion dollars over the following 30 years, a 20% savings over the anticipated KWA costs. In other words, the Emergency Manager chose to make the move for reasons other than cost savings. What those reasons were is a matter of speculation. Motor City Muckraker reporter Steve Neavling suggests that it may have been part of a plan to break up the DWSD and then to privatize it. Ypsilanti blogger Mark Maynard has suggested that it may have been an effort to provide water for water-intensive fracking operations. Stay tuned on this shocking twist to this story.

Snyder administration officials were against use of Flint River before they were for it

In related news, rock star ACLU investigative journalist Curt Guyette has revealed emails showing that officials in the Snyder administration originally rejected the use of the Flint River to supply drinking water to the city, a move that led to the poisoning of their drinking water:

In a civil deposition not reported until now, [Flint chief financial officer Jerry] Ambrose testified under oath that emergency manager [Ed] Kurtz considered a proposal to use the Flint River, discussed the option with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and then rejected it.

In 2014, Ambrose was deposed in a civil lawsuit brought by retired Flint municipal workers against the state over severe cuts to their health care benefits. Attorney Alec Gibbs questioned Ambrose about the water decision (a year before Flint learned it was being poisoned).

“There was brief evaluation of whether the city would be better off to simply use the Flint River as its primary source of water over the long term,” Ambrose said. “That was determined not to be feasible.”

“Who determined it wasn’t feasible?” Gibbs asked.

“It was a collective decision of the emergency management team based on conversations with the MDEQ that indicated they would not be supportive of the use of the Flint River on a long-term basis as a primary source of water,” Ambrose answered.

“What was the reason they gave?” Gibbs asked.

“You’ll have to ask them,” Ambrose said.

Again, this conflicts with the spin being put out by Gov. Snyder and his defenders that this was the plan all along. Clearly it was not.

UPDATE: As Vann R Newkirk II points out at Daily Kos, this discussion was about the use of the Flint River as a permanent source, not an interim, temporary source of water.

Attorney General Bill Schuette appoints two “independent” investigators

After Flint residents should not be charged for water they can’t use, Michigan Attorney General has responded to calls that he appoint an outside investigator to investigate the cause of Flint’s water problems. Over the weekend he did just that:

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Monday he has named Royal Oak attorney Todd Flood as a special outside counsel in his office’s investigation of the lead contamination of Flint drinking water, and Flood will be assisted by Andrew Arena, the former FBI director in Detroit.

Schuette said in a news release he appointed a special counsel from outside his office to avoid potential conflicts of interest, since his office is also charged with defending the state and state officials in connection with civil lawsuits filed over the lead contamination.

“We will do our job thoroughly and let the chips fall where they may,” Schuette said in a news release.

“This investigation is about beginning the road back to rebuild, regain and restore trust in government.”

Not everyone thinks these men are quite so “independent”, however. Brandon Dillon, Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, released a statement calling their independence into question:

‘Incomprehensible’ is the only way to describe the hiring of these two by the Attorney General to assist in what should be a fair and impartial investigation into the poisoning of thousands of children. The people of Flint deserve a truly independent investigation, not one spearheaded by a major Republican donor that has given thousands of dollars to Governor Snyder and has business entanglements that could present serious conflicts of interest.

In a related development, State Representative LaTanya Garrett of Detroit has filed a petitionary letter with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to remove Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and his team from the Flint water crisis investigation. Citing major conflicts of interest, the letter detailed the representative’s concerns about Schuette’s ability to remain impartial during the investigation, given his party affiliation. The potential implications for his own position within the government would be unclear, if evidence is uncovered linking Gov. Rick Snyder or other top-ranking Michigan officials to negligent or criminal behavior, she said in a statement. “The people of Flint require a clear, fair and impartial investigation,” Rep. Garrett said in her letter. “Due to Schuette’s failure to launch a timely investigation upon the initial request of the Flint delegation of legislators, I am not confident that he can serve in the best interest of the Flint citizens.”

Attorney General Schuette is scheduled to give an update on the status of his investigation during a press conference sometime today.

Genesee County Volunteer Militia getting involved in protests over lead-tainted water

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse in the Flint water crisis, an armed “militia”, the Genesee County Volunteer Militia, has decided to get involved:

Flint may have seen multiple rallies in recent weeks that called attention to the city’s water crisis — but few if any were as surprising as a rally held by the Genesee County Volunteer Militia.

On Sunday afternoon, about 30 militia supporters clad in camouflage gear and bearing “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, gathered outside of City Hall to demand accountability amid a national discussion over how the city’s water supply became contaminated.

“We’re here to defend this community,” said Matthew Krol, the militia’s executive officer, addressing the crowd in a full camouflage outfit with a handgun strapped to his hip. “We’re not going to allow (the government) to step on the people of Flint any longer.”

He added: “If it means having to take up arms in defense … we will do that as well.”

Yeah, that’ll surely help. I mean, what could go wrong? Who, exactly, do they thinks needs to be shot, I wonder…?

Flint business ready to help recycle all those plastic water bottles

One thing that has gotten scant attention in the entire Flint situation is the insane amount of plastic PET water bottles that are being sent into the city every day. Mark Wahlberg, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Eminem, Cher, and Jimmy Fallon are just some of the celebrities sending water which adds to the water being supplied by the state of Michigan.

One National Guardsman told Anne and I that they had distributed water to around 13,000 people on Friday. At Fire Station #6, we were told they were giving out roughly 80 pallets of water a day. A pallet typically contains 1,728 bottles of water and a case typically contains 24 bottles. If every person got a case of bottled water, just those two sources alone adds up to roughly a half-million plastic bottles to be disposed of each day.

A Flint business person wants to help:

With thousands of plastic water bottles being used as donations come in for city residents, one Flint business is offering a free option to help dispose of the materials.

“Wondering what to do with all your plastic bottles Flint, Michigan?” reads a message on Young’s Environmental’s Facebook page.

The waste management business will have a roll-out box starting at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 25 in front of their corporate headquarters at 5305 N. Dort Highway, between Carpenter and Coldwater roads.

According to their post, they are “working on getting more drop off locations setup throughout our city and will do our best to keep everyone updated!”

That’s making lemonade of out lead-tainted water if I ever saw it.