The human catastrophe unfolding in Flint is the direct result of the elimination of representative government (aka “democracy”) under Gov. Rick Snyder’s Emergency Management program. With elected officials unable to help their constituents, the citizens of Flint had only one place to turn: an un-elected, state-appointed Emergency Manager. And, because the EM has no one to answer to except the man who appointed him, Gov. Rick Snyder, he was able to move with impunity. The poisoning of Flint’s drinking water is the direct result of EM Darnell Earley’s decision to move to Flint water instead of staying with water supplied by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), all to save a buck.
But this story goes much deeper than that because, all along the process, Snyder administration officials were warned about the impending crisis and not only did nothing, they actively fought against doing ANYTHING. And, once the crisis could no longer be ignored, they acted in slow motion as the drinking water in many Flint homes continues to be toxic.
Here’s a short run-down of what transpired (for a much more in-depth timeline, check out Michigan Radio’s amazing piece HERE:
2013 – State officials receive a report commissioned by the Flint City Council detailing water treatment procedures that would need to be taken if Flint’s water source was switched from Lake Huron River (via the DWSD) to the Flint River. This report was ignored and the treatment protocols spelled out in the report (which would have cost a whopping $60 a day) were never followed.
2014 – After being told by the DWSD that they would be able to stay on their system until a new pipeline from Lake Huron was completed, Flint EM Darnell Earley rebuffed them, choosing instead to use Flint River water. In April of that year, the switch was made.
In February of 2015, federal officials alerted the Snyder administration that they had a lead problem in Flint. No action was taken.
In June of 2015, a leaked EPA memo shows that the federal government had serious concerns about lead in Flint’s water. Snyder administration officials respond by telling residents to “relax”.
In August of 2015, water testing by the DEQ show extremely high lead levels in some samples. The authors of the report are directed to drop some samples to being the average lead reading below the level that would require state action. The number of samples used for the report is too low, in violation of federal regulations.
In September of 2015, testing by pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha shows extremely high lead levels in the blood of Flint children. Virginia Tech University researcher Marc Edwards finds high levels of lead in the tap water of many Flint homes. The Snyder administration responds by discrediting both whistleblowers.
By September 30th, Gov. Snyder is forced to admit Flint has a problem. A BIG problem.
October 1st – Genesee County declares a public health emergency. The next day, DEQ chief Dan Wyant says corrosion controls were used to treat Flint River water. This is later found to be completely untrue, a lie. By mid-October, the Snyder administration finally agrees to pay for Flint to move back to the DWSD system, over eight months after federal officials warned them of the problem.
And, finally, this week, the Snyder administration FINALLY began distributing water and water filters to affected Flint residents. Yesterday, while most of us were watching President Obama’s State of the Union Address, Gov. Snyder ordered the National Guard to Flint to assist and asked FEMA to help as well. This comes a full four months after Congressman Dan Kildee had already requested FEMA assistance. In response to reporters’ questions, Gov. Snyder claims that “there [has been] no delay, this is the normal process.”
The Detroit News is reporting that EPA officials tried to get the Snyder administration to take action throughout much of last year (when they were telling people to “relax”, altering water testing reports to avoid taking action, and vilifying whistleblowers) but had no success:
Starting with inquiries made in February, the federal agency battled Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality behind the scenes for at least six months over whether Flint needed to use chemical treatments to keep lead lines and plumbing connections from leaching into drinking water. The EPA did not publicize its concern that Flint residents’ health was jeopardized by the state’s insistence that such controls were not required by law.
Instead of moving quickly to verify the concerns or take preventative measures, federal officials opted to prod the DEQ to act, EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman told The Detroit News this week. Hedman said she sought a legal opinion on whether the EPA could force action, but it wasn’t completed until November.
The state didn’t agree to apply corrosion controls until late July and didn’t publicly concede until October that it erroneously applied the federal Lead and Copper Rule overseeing water quality.
An EPA water expert, Miguel Del Toral, identified potential problems with Flint’s drinking water in February, confirmed the suspicions in April and summarized the looming problem in a June internal memo. The state decided in October to change Flint’s drinking water source from the corrosive Flint River back to the Detroit water system.
What this all shows is that the Snyder has stalled, obfuscated, and attempted to avoid taking action throughout the entire process. They have only acted when they no longer had a choice and the actions being taken should have been taken months ago.
One final thing: in the absence of action being taken by the Snyder administration to protect Flint kids poisoned with lead, Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital in Flint are forming “a joint team of 35 epidemiologists, educators and nutritionists will begin creating ways to mitigate developmental and behavioral challenges faced by children poisoned by lead-tainted water.”
Once again, it is outside groups having to take the lead because Gov. Rick Snyder has not.