Now that a state of emergency has been declared in the city of Flint over the poisoning of their drinking water by the Snyder administration, you might think that all resources are being brought to bear to resolve this human-made catastrophe. After all, the state government has a new website, Michigan.gov/FlintWater sporting a snazzy new logo and a quote from Gov. Snyder himself saying, “We are … taking actions to immediately improve the water situation in Flint.”
You would be wrong.
Yesterday, President Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough appeared on Meet the Press where host Chuck Todd asked him about the situation in Flint. According to McDonough, the Snyder administration has yet to ask the federal government for assistance:
CHUCK TODD: All right, a couple of other domestic stories I want to ask you about, the Flint water crisis. So far, the state hasn’t asked for federal help, are you waiting for the state to ask for federal help or are you guys going to intervene? This appears to be a major crisis going on.
DENIS MCDONOUGH: Well, obviously very concerned about it, but I don’t have any news to make with you on that today, Chuck.
TODD: Nobody has asked you anything yet?
MCDONOUGH: We’re watching it very closely, but nobody has asked us anything yet.
TODD: And are you prepared, is FEMA waiting to be called in?
MCDONOUGH: Well, again, we’re going to watch this very closely. I’m going to be very careful what I say about this.
According to reporting by the Detroit News, FEMA does have three staff members in Michigan to assist. Again, you might be inclined to think that these FEMA staffers would be on the ground in Flint.
Again, you would be wrong:
FEMA has deployed three workers to provide technical assistance at the State Emergency Operations Center in Lansing, said Nicole Lisabeth, spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police.
The FEMA employees were deployed at the request Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy director of emergency management at the Michigan State Police, Lisabeth said.
“We’re closely monitoring the #FlintWater situation,” FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre wrote Friday on Twitter.
Lansing? They’re in Lansing? Are they aware that the crisis is happening in Flint, 60 miles away?
You’re probably also thinking that, since the crisis was finally acknowledged by the Snyder administration in October (despite having known about it since February), that water and water filters would be being distributed throughout Flint to any household impacted on an ongoing basis.
Again, you would be wrong.
A local sheriff recently went door-to-door to personally distribute water filters and found that two-thirds of the homes had no water filter. The state has also not been providing clean water so that essential task has been taken on by churches, charities, labor unions, and other concerned citizens in the absence of action by the Snyder administration. In fact, it won’t be until tomorrow that the State Police will begin going door-to-door to distribute water & water filters and to make sure people are informed about what resources are available to them.
This is what Gov. Snyder is calling “immediate action”. And it is neither.
One final thing: Yesterday I published a piece in which I predicted that nobody will go to prison for their role in this outrageous situation. Given the recent demonization of protesters by Snyder administration spokesperson Dave Murray, my revised prediction is that we actually WILL soon see people going to jail over the Flint Water Crisis. But it won’t be Snyder officials or, of course, Snyder himself.
It will be the protesters. Mark my words.
UPDATE: As I mentioned above, in the absence of action from the state government, other groups have been working hard to deliver water to Flint residents. Today one group, Laborers’ Local 1075 along with its signatory contractors, delivered its second semi-truck full of bottled water to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, along with several other pallets of water to the Mission of Hope, both located in Flint. So far they have donated over 72,000 bottles of water to Flint residents.
“Our Members live and work in Flint and we’re just trying to be good neighbors,” said Dan Husted, Business Manager of Local 1075. “While the experts work to figure out the best way to deliver clean water, we know that our neighbors need clean water today and we’re glad to help.”
“Having access to clean water is a basic human right,” said Nayyirah Shariff of the Flint Democracy Defense League. “We’re thankful for our brothers and sisters of LIUNA Local 1075 for stepping up to make sure children have access to safe water.”
Also, Congressman Dan Kildee, who has asked for assistance on behalf of Flint residents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Disease Control and who asked Gov. Snyder to request federal assistance as far back as November of 2015 today reiterated his request to the governor, indicating that he has now taken matters into his own hands:
In November, I wrote to you encouraging the state to request assistance from federal agencies. To date, federal assistance has not been requested by the state. Since in my opinion the state’s response to the ongoing crisis has been inadequate, I reached out to the White House today to request assistance with any additional federal resources that may be available.