Flint, Rick Snyder — February 17, 2016 at 1:05 pm

#FlintWaterCrisis news round-up: State House (committee) finally approves money to offset residents’ water bills (and more)


NOTE: With so much news coming out of the Flint water crisis, it’s simply not feasible for me to write a separate post about each of them. Therefore, I am putting many of the stories together into a single news round-up post every day or two. You can read all our coverage of the Flint water crisis HERE or by clicking the “Flint Water Crisis” tab at the top of the page right under our logo.

State House (committee) finally gets around to approving $30 million to help offset (poisoned) water bills for Flint residents

One of the most shocking facts about the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water by the Snyder administration – and one that many people aren’t aware of – is that residents there are STILL getting water bills. And the cost of water in Flint is higher than anywhere else in the country.

On February 3rd, Gov. Snyder requested $30 million to offset these bills. Residents would receive a credit worth 65% of their bill meaning they are still paying for the poisoned water.

On February 4th, the state Senate approved the appropriation. Today, finally, two weeks later, the House has finally gotten around to approving it, as well. Rather, the House Appropriations Committee approved it. It still needs to be passed by the full House and signed into law by the governor.

Hopefully they won’t take two more weeks. This slow response has been the hallmark of the Snyder administration who has yet to remove a single lead water line in Flint 139 days after Gov. Snyder admitted there was a problem.

By the way, Democrats in both houses of the legislature attempted to raise the amount to $60 million but were rebuffed by their Republican colleagues.

One more thing: even with this appropriation, Flint may be broke by the end of the year:

Flint’s water fund could run out of cash by summer without $30 million in residential assistance from the state, and even then could be insolvent by the end of the year, according to the city’s chief financial officer.

“The city lacks the financial resources to provide any relief to customers on its own,” CFO Jody Lundquist said Wednesday in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee. “At the current rate of collections, the city’s water fund is projected to run out of cash by this summer.

“Even with the appropriation, if the public confidence cannot be restored, and if collections continue to decline, we will run out of cash by the end of 2016.”

So there’s that.

Snyder administration created a lead awareness campaign for Flint a full month before admitting there was a problem

As I mentioned above, Gov. Snyder went public with an admission that Flint’s drinking water was poisoned. However, a month earlier, his administration was developing a lead awareness program for Flint:

Nearly a month before Gov. Snyder says he learned the extent of Flint’s water lead crisis, the state’s Department of Community Health was already working up a Flint water lead communication plan.

In a Sept. 9, 2015, document titled “Flint water lead communication plan,” a campaign called “Lead us to water” ginned up talking points to deliver a message the lead exposure does not occur just through water and that there are personal actions people can take to prevent lead exposure.

Of course, the document doesn’t say the obvious for the time — don’t drink the water in Flint — but it’s curious why the state would go to such efforts to talk lead with Flint residents before anyone on the state level sounded a public alarm.

In explaining the objective of the plan, the plan’s authors say the residents of the city perceive problems related to the Flint River, including “high levels of lead in tap water.”

I’m losing track of how many times government officials knew of a deadly problem related to Flint’s drinking water and failed to notify the public in a timely fashion (as in IMMEDIATELY.)

Gov. Snyder wants everyone to believe this issue was the fault of the federal government

While he didn’t come right out and blame the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water on President Barack Obama yesterday, he did want to be sure everyone knows the federal government are the real culprits here, not him and his self-appointed dictators, Flint’s Emergency Managers:

“They failed to do a lot of things in this process,” Snyder told reporters after addressing the Michigan Society of Association Executives at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing.

“I’m not going to spend time on their issue,” Snyder said. “I think that will come out as time passes, in terms of not identifying the issue, not bringing it to either the state’s attention or even other people in the federal government’s attention. They still haven’t fully acknowledged all of their issues.”

“We’ll move forward with our issues, and I expect hopefully people are asking good, tough questions of the federal government. They should be asked.”

The USEPA has already pointed out that their ability to oversee things in Flint was hampered by obfuscation and a lack of cooperation by state and local official. This is from a statement released January 18th:

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the state of Michigan was responsible for implementing the regulations to protect their residents’ drinking water. While EPA worked within the framework of the law to repeatedly and urgently communicate the steps the state needed to take to properly treat its water, those necessary actions were not taken as quickly as they should have been.

Our first priority is to make sure the water in Flint is safe, but we also must look at what the agency could have done differently.

The situation in Flint — of a large system switching from purchasing treated water to untreated water — is highly unusual. EPA’s ability to oversee management of that situation was impacted by failures and resistance at the state and local levels to work with us in a forthright, transparent and proactive manner consistent with the seriousness of the risks to public health.


Gov. Snyder asks for more help from the federal government, wants Medicaid expanded to cover more Flint residents

Gov. Snyder has requested a waiver from the federal government that would allow kids up to the age of 21 and pregnant women to receive Medicaid assistance:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has asked that Medicaid benefits be expanded to include Flint residents up to 21 years old and pregnant women who have been receiving water from the city’s troubled system.

Sunday, Snyder sent a formal request to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services seeking a waiver that could make new services available to 15,000 additional Flint residents.

“Children, teens and young adults exposed t lead need more coverage to get testing and the treatment they need,” Snyder said in a press release. “Expanding these services and lead abatement efforts will mitigate the risks of lead exposure and result in better identifying any long-term health challenges, including behavioral issues.”

An expansion of the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program services would allow case managers in Flint to:

  • Link physicians, behavioral health providers and Medicaid health plans together to provide better access to service for residents.
  • Bolster efforts at improving nutrition.
  • Improve access to “educational and social supports” available in the community.

Thanks, Governor. We’re glad you got around to that, too.

The ‘hacktivist’ group “Anonymous” interferes with medical care of patients in Flint hospital

The mysterious group “Anonymous” announced recently that it was going to exact its revenge on those responsible for the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water. Instead, it hacked into the computers of Hurley Medical Center where Flint hero Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha works and disrupted things for patients there:

A cyber attack by the online “hacktivist” group Anonymous that was intended as a protest over the Flint water crisis created headaches for unwitting patients and workers at a Flint hospital, according to documents obtained by The Flint Journal.

Emails and records from Hurley Medical Center, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, show a Jan. 15 cyber attack at the hospital caused problems for the hospital’s food service.

Records show that lunch service was delayed when generic trays were sent out and nurses were forced to supervise for special diets. Some patients did not receive their lunch trays until after 4 p.m.

Delays were also experienced in the hospital’s emergency room as staff members were unable to print labels, ID badges or patient discharges, according to hospital documents.

Nice job, Anonymous. That’ll show ’em.


Water lead levels still high in 666 homes tested

Lest you think that the restoration of phosphate treatment of Flint’s water supply has fixed things, think again:

Some 6.7 % of homes tested in Flint have dangerously high lead levels in their tap water, according to state data.

They’re spread across all parts of the city, as can be seen on this Google Map created using the latest data available from the State of Michigan’s website.

The map illustrates 666 addresses with levels of more than 15 parts per billion of lead found the water. That’s out of 9,940 tests taken from September through Feb. 13 (an additional entry with high lead levels didn’t link to a valid address). The state has been collecting water samples from residents who voluntarily submit them to learn how much lead is in their tap water.

Flint will be dealing with the outfall of this debacle for years. As Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody said, this is “still going to be hurting people in this community [when I retire] sixteen years from now.”

In continuing effort to shift blame, Snyder administration official defends state’s keeping Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak secret

In continuing effort to shift blame, the state’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eden Wells, defended the state’s response to the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak that killed nine Flint residents. As has already been reported, state officials knew about the outbreak nearly a year ago but only released the information last month. Dr. Wells calls this “standard public health practice”:

Michigan’s top doctor says the state’s investigation into Flint’s deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak followed “standard public health practice.”

The state’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eden Wells, says that investigation “was very consistent … with any outbreak investigation that’s been conducted.” […]

Wells, who started her job with the state in May 2015, said the state chose not to call on federal resources — even after the EPA, notified of the outbreak by county health officials in February 2015, alerted the CDC — because state agencies believed they had “all the resources needed” to investigate.

Chalk this up as yet another instance of a Snyder appointee failing to do the right thing and/or making decisions, in this case a deadly decision. Recall that Dr. Wells is also the Snyder administration official who told Flint residents it is okay to bathe their babies in lead-contaminated water:

By the way, as I noted in a previous news round-up, Dr. Wells was working only part-time in her state-level position and that was illegal.

She’s now been given a promotion to full-time, three days after the Pride Source article was published blowing the whistle on the illegality of her employment situation. Hopefully she’ll be more responsive now that she’s not distracted by her other job.