Flint, Rick Snyder — January 23, 2016 at 12:37 pm

#FlintWaterCrisis news round-up: Rachel Maddow to host Flint townhall and much, much more


The big news of the day is the announcement that Rachel Maddow will be broadcasting from a townhall meeting she’s holding in Flint next Wednesday evening. Watch the video announcement here:

Here’s the official announcement:

Rachel Maddow will host “American Disaster: The Crisis in Flint, An MSNBC Town Hall” from Flint, Michigan on Wednesday, January 27, 2015 9 p.m. ET. Maddow and members of the Flint community will examine how this man-made water crisis is now a full blown emergency with potentially devastating health effects for thousands and look ahead to potential solutions.

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.

In other news…

Flint children’s blood lead levels already were spiking in summer of 2014

Dr. Eden Wells, the chief medical executive at Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services revealed yesterday that elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint children began to show up as early as the summer of 2014, a full year earlier than has been thought. However, because there was a dip later in the fall, a seasonal dip that is not unusual, HHS officials wrote it off as nothing out of the ordinary:

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ own review last July showed a spike in blood-lead levels in Flint children in the months after the city switched its water supply to Flint River water. But state epidemiologists explained it away, a “missed opportunity” that could have resulted in an earlier response to the crisis, the agency’s chief medical officer said. […]

The July data review by the department came amid a growing outcry among Flint residents and local officials about the condition and safety of the city’s water. The data showed a spike in the levels of lead in Flint children’s blood in July, August and September 2014 — only a few months after the city had switched its water supply from the city of Detroit’s system to Flint River water. Email exchanges within the department showed efforts to broaden the data review, to see if the conclusions would change. They didn’t. “Even compared to the previous three years, the portion of first-time EBLL (elevated blood-lead levels) is highest during summer 2014,” health department officials stated in a July 28 memo for Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon.

But the state data also showed a drop in blood-lead levels in Flint children for October 2014 — a typical, seasonal reduction. That led state epidemiologists to decide the summer spike they saw was insignificant. “So, they said we’ll just have to keep collecting further data, and taking a look at this, and follow it,” Wells said.

Legionnaire’s disease highly likely to be linked to switch to Flint River water

Although there is no conclusive proof linking the 2014-2015 outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease in Flint to the change to the Flint River as their water source, experts are now saying the connection is highly likely:

A national expert in Legionnaires’ disease who met with health and hospital officials in Michigan blames the spike in cases in Genesee County on Flint’s water.

Janet Stout, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering with 30 years of experience studying the disease, concluded the problems with Flint’s water are related to the increase in Legionnaires’ cases — although she can’t prove it.

“It is like an emperor’s new clothes situation,” Stout said. “Somebody has to say it.”

She said it’s a “reasonable conclusion” given the link between poor water quality and Legionnaires’ disease in scientific studies done elsewhere.

New data released this week by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Legionnaires’ outbreaks shows 70% of people who contracted the disease were exposed to Flint water two weeks before their symptoms began.

Just looking at the data, it seems pretty clear:

At least nine people have died from the outbreak.

Here’s more from The Rachel Maddow Show last night in this must-see segment where she also details the $80 million being sent to Michigan from the federal government:

Now that they’ve created an unprecedented public health crisis, state hands power back to city

As I have mentioned in the past, now that the situation in Flint has turned into an internationally-reported catastrophe, Gov. Snyder is requesting that the power taken away from city officials through emergency management be returned. Yesterday, that happened:

With Flint’s water crisis dominating national headlines, Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration moved Friday to restore much of Flint Mayor Karen Weaver’s management powers.

The state’s Flint receivership transition advisory board granted Weaver the power to hire and fire the city administrator, Flint’s police and fire chiefs and all other city department directors.

The appointment powers had belonged to city administrator Natasha Henderson after former Emergency Manager Jerry Ambrose declared Flint’s financial emergency over last April, ending a four-year reign of state control of the city.

State Treasurer Nick Khouri signed off on the change.

“Mayor Weaver will now have the authority to appoint the city administrator and all department heads,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a Friday statement. “Today’s action is the next step in transitioning to full, local control in Flint.”

Too bad that didn’t happen back in 2012 or 2013 when it could have made a difference and maybe saved lives.

Undocumented immigrants in Flint hit hard by Flint Water Crisis

An estimated 1,000 undocumented immigrants in Flint are being hit particularly hard by the poisoning of their drinking water. Because they are more likely to live in older homes that have old, lead solder-containing water lines, they face an increased chance of being exposed to lead-contaminated water. Also, because they often have limited access to television and the internet and may not speak English well or at all, many are just now learning of the lead issue:

Perhaps as many as 1,000 [undocumented immigrants] are not going to water distribution centers, they’re not calling 211 and they’re not getting deliveries. It’s because they’re scared.

These people are undocumented immigrants living in Flint, mostly on the city’s east side.

It’s hard to imagine, but many of them weren’t even aware of lead in Flint’s water until a couple weeks ago.

“One day I turned on the faucet and the water started coming out yellow,” said Lucia.

Lucia has been living in Flint for more than a decade. She left Mexico 23 years ago. We’re not using the single mother’s face or name, because she’s undocumented.

“I’m not here legally. And I’m always scared that they’ll arrest me, and then deport me,” she said.

In one situation I have learned of, an undocumented mother has an 11-month year old baby with terrible rashes. This family just learned of the lead in the water 2 weeks ago. In other words, that infant has been drinking and bathing in poison it’s entire life.

Some undocumented immigrants are also avoiding water distribution centers because they are afraid of being deported or are, in some cases, forced to show id as shown in this video:

Show me your papers to get bottled water. But we didn't need ID to get poisoned. #FlinWaterCrisis

A video posted by nayyirah shariff (@vmilitant) on

Fortunately, not all distribution centers are requiring identification.

If you are an undocumented immigrant in Flint being impacted by the water problems or know of someone who is, please contact American Voice by emailing press@americasvoice.org.

New DEQ chief questions legality of USEPA’s demands of Michigan officials

Keith Creagh, the new Director of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, is questioning the legality of an order from the USEPA that Michigan make some substantial changes in their response to the catastrophe in Flint:

The political and regulatory blame game taking place as Flint’s water and public health crisis unfolds, took another turn Friday with the new head of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality saying the state will comply with a federal order regarding the handling of the emergency, but taking a combative stance in doing so.

First, DEQ Director Keith Creagh questioned the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal authority to make such demands. Then he disputed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s contentions in her emergency order sent to the state Thursday that the state has delayed corrective action in Flint, where high lead levels were found in drinking water. […]

In Thursday’s order, the EPA said despite ongoing efforts in Flint even after the city switched back from Flint River water as its source to Lake Huron in October, there remained “underlying problems” and “fundamental deficiencies” in the response by both the state and the city of Flint. It ordered them to inventory all the lead service lines in the city — an unknown number — and demanded the state create a publicly accessible website to post results of water sampling and reports.

Lawyer demanding Snyder correspondence regarding Flint Water Crisis back to 2011

After releasing his 2014 & 2015 emails regarding the Flint water crisis, it has been shown at least twice (HERE and HERE) that Gov. Snyder has not released them all. Now, a Flint attorney who has filed two class action lawsuits related to the Flint situation is demanding that the governor release more documents:

A lawyer representing a growing number of Flint residents will serve a comprehensive request for documents to Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday.

“The Governor says he has immunity from the Freedom of Information Act, but he doesn’t have immunity from our lawsuit,” said Michael Pitt, who is one of a group of attorneys who filed class action lawsuits this week against the state in Genesee County and the state Court of Claims.

Pitt, who commented during a taping of the public television show “Off the Record,” will be looking for e-mails, text messages and any other electronic communication on the Flint water crisis from Snyder and his administration going back to 2011.

The lawsuit in Genesee County asks that Flint stop shutting off water service to customers and charging people for water they can’t drink. The Court of Claims lawsuits seeks to hold Snyder and the state financially accountable for damages caused after the city, with the approval of a state appointed emergency manager, switched from the Detroit Water and Sewer System to drawing water from the Flint River. The more corrosive river water was improperly treated and caused lead to leach from pipes into residents’ and business’ tap water.

Flint Water Advisory Task Force calls for changes in how state is responding to the crisis

The Flint Water Advisory Task Force, created by Gov. Snyder to direct the state’s actions in responding to the human-made public health emergency in Flint, is calling for changes in how water is distributed in the city:

Gov. Rick Snyder’s Flint Water Advisory Task Force says it’s essential to re-establish a trusted drinking water distribution system in Flint “to replace the unsustainable and expensive bottled water and filter distribution program.”

In a letter to Snyder released Friday, the task force also calls on the state to ask the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help the state in assessing outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014 and 2015, which may have been linked to the Flint water problem, and which caused nine deaths in Genesee County.

Gov. Snyder responds to Flint Water Crisis by hiring a new PR firm

One of Gov. Snyder’s responses to the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water by his administration is to hire a new out-of-state public relations firm along with former spokesperson of Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr:

Gov. Rick Snyder has hired the national public relations firm Mercury LLC, where the spouse of Snyder’s new chief of staff is a senior vice president, to help with communications during the Flint water crisis.

The governor has also hired another communications expert, Bill Nowling, chief of staff Jarrod Agen said late Friday.

Agen’s wife, Bettina Inclan-Agen, is a senior vice president in Mercury’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., office, according to the firm’s website.

Mercury’s website lists no office in Michigan.

Agen told the Free Press in a text message that “because of the extreme interest from both statewide and national media,” the governor’s office has hired both Mercury and Nowling, a former Snyder campaign spokesman who also worked for former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr.

Black Lives Matter activists make demands in Flint Water Crisis

Organizers in the Black Lives Matter movement are calling for specific actions in response the the Flint water crisis:

The water crisis in Flint is one of many ways state agencies and elected officials have sanctioned violence against Black people. In solidarity with the people of Flint, Michigan, the Black Lives Matter National Network demands the following:

  • Governor Snyder request Flint is named a federal disaster zone
  • A moratorium on all water shutoffs
  • Removal of all water liens on property taxes
  • Immediate replacement of all water public infrastructure including service lines at no cost to residents and business owners
  • Refund for all water bills since the switch to the Flint water system
  • Creation of a fund to repair all property damage from the toxic water such as appliances, interior plumbing, water heaters, and furnaces
  • The lifting of executive immunity from the Governor’s office and the immediate release of communications related to the Flint water crisis
  • An independent state and federal investigation into the Flint water crisis
  • Creation of a Flint Citizen Civilian Core to train local workers to repair the infrastructure
  • Creation of a holistic medical care facility in Flint to treat residents that will offer chelation therapy as treatment for lead poisoning
  • Installation of whole home reverse osmosis systems in all homes and business to protect residents and business from all contaminates in water
  • Creation of a medical monitoring fund for treatment of Flint residents
  • Return of Flint to home rule
  • The immediate resignation of Governor Rick Snyder

Gov. Snyder’s appeal to FEMA for disaster declaration falls on deaf ears

After requesting an appeal of the Federal Emergency Management Authority’s decision not to call the Flint Water Crisis a disaster as opposed to an emergency which qualifies for only $5 million in federal assistance, he was again rebuffed:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Friday Gov. Rick Snyder’s appeal of its decision that Flint’s contaminated water crisis is a federal emergency instead of a major disaster.

Snyder requested $96 million in disaster relief, but Obama extended $5 million in federal emergency aid and followed Thursday with an $80 million allocation to the state of Michigan for federal drinking water construction aid and loans. The $80 million comes from the 2016 federal budget, and the state presumably would award most if not all of the assistance to Flint.

The Republican governor said Friday in a statement that he would immediately ask President Barack Obama to reconsider and award more money for housing aid and personal property replacement as well as emergency protective measures.

FEMA said in its rejection letter that it can’t approve such aid under the law. The agency reiterated that Flint’s contaminated water didn’t qualify as a major disaster because it is a man-made crisis instead of a natural catastrophe. It also wasn’t caused by an explosion, fire or flood.

But Snyder said he is appealing again and requesting the money under the emergency declaration.