Flint, Rick Snyder — March 4, 2016 at 12:43 pm

#FlintWaterCrisis news round-up: State government agency steps in to stop lead water line replacement (and MORE!)


State steps in to halt lead water line removal in Flint

Today marks the 155th day since Gov. Rick Snyder publicly conceded that the drinking water in Flint, Michigan was poisoned with the powerful, odorless, tasteless, invisible neurotoxin lead. Since that day, exactly ZERO lead water service lines have been removed by the state. Yesterday, Flint took matters into their own hands and began a lead water line replacement project Mayor Karen Weaver calls the “Fast Start Initiative”. That’s when things got really weird:

The first lead-line replacement began in Flint on Thursday, then abruptly ended after a contractor was stopped by the state environmental agency.

Saying the community could not “wait any longer,” Jenan Jondy of the Broome Center said Mohammed Hammoud of Crescent Contracting was hired by the Flint Coalition, a consortium of private businesses and individuals, to begin pipe removal in the city, according to the Flint Journal. […]

Hammond’s crew was to work on lead pipe removal on up to three houses. Local activist Arthur Woodson said the crew arrived early at 717 E. Alma on the city’s north side, along with the mayor’s chief of staff nominee, Steven Branch, and Councilman Eric Mays.

Then, Woodson said, police arrived as “we started to dig up the lead service line.”

Police alerted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and “people then came out and made us stop digging, temporarily, to check and make sure we had the right permits,” Woodson said.

Tensions rose and construction was halted, according to the Flint Journal and WFNT.

The DEQ, which has shown a callous disregard for critical federal regulations relating to the proper treatment of drinking water and the required reporting of elevated water lead levels, has suddenly found its spine and moved quickly to halt the water line replacement to check on permits.

Work eventually resumed after DEQ was certain all the “i”s were dotted and “t”s were crossed. It’s a real shame they weren’t so thorough two years ago. If they had been, we wouldn’t be talking about this today.

U.S. Senators continue to block federal aid to Flint

Showing a callous disregard for the plight of Flint residents, Republican Senator Mike Lee and another unnamed Senator continue to hold up federal funding to help the beleaguered city:

A couple of U.S. senators including Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah continue to delay review of a $220 million Flint-inspired bill, pushing a vote on the measure into next week.

Among Lee’s problems with the legislation are that it didn’t go through the Senate’s ordinary procedure, and the funds designated to pay for the legislation are repurposed from a stimulus appropriation, according to a Senate staffer familiar with the deliberations.

Lee is also concerned that the bill is federalizing what has traditionally been a local issue — the maintenance of public water infrastructure.

Separately, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, lifted his objection last week and won’t block the bill; however, other “holds” placed to stall the bill may still exist, according to Senate staffers.

Let’s not pretend that Republicans in Washington give a damn about Flint. Their presidential candidates held a debate in Detroit last night and in the course of the two-hour event, spent all of two minutes discussing the Flint water crisis. During those two minutes, Sen. Marco Rubio backslapped Gov. Rick Snyder for doing a heckuva job and decried the “politicization” of the debacle:

“The politicization of it, I think, is unfair because I don’t think someone woke up one morning and said ‘Let’s figure out a way to poison the water system’

“I give the governor credit. He took responsibility for what happened, and he’s talked about people being held responsible.

“It should not be a partisan issue. The way the Democrats have tried to turn this into a partisan issue — that somehow Republicans woke up in the morning and decided … it’s a good idea to poison some kids with lead — it’s absurd. It’s outrageous. It isn’t true.”

Clearly Sen. Rubio is unaware that all the major failures that led to the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water can be laid directly at the feet of our Republican governor, his appointed Emergency Managers, and the Republican policy of Emergency Management. That’s not “politicization”, that’s reality. And the only people Gov. Snyder is holding responsible are everyone but himself and his Emergency Managers. Calling the hue and cry against them “unfair” is ludicrous.

Meanwhile, a delegation of U.S. House Democrats along with Senator Debbie Stabenow is in Flint today to raise awareness of their horrific circumstances. The delegation includes:

Congressman Dan Kildee
Democratic Leader Pelosi
Assistant Democratic Leader Clyburn
House Democratic Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA-34)
Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC-01)
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03)
Congressman John Conyers (MI-13)
Congressman Sander Levin (MI-09)
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12)
Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14)
Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-05)
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (NY-09)
Congresswoman Susan Davis (CA-53)
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13)
Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02)
Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04)
Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10)
Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03)
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43)

Flint mother whose children were poisoned with lead ready to sue the ass off those responsible

One of the heroes in the catastrophe in Flint is LeeAnne Walters, a mother of four whose kids are now experiencing the horrendous physical and mental devastation that lead causes in small children. Her activism and insistent voice played a huge role in exposing the problem and propelling it to the national spotlight. Now that things have settled a bit, Walters has filed a lawsuit against government officials and their infrastructure contractors who caused the problem:

The Flint mother who told federal lawmakers her house was “ground zero” for lead-contaminated water has filed a lawsuit against those she says are responsible for poisoning her children.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, March 3, in Genesee Circuit Court by LeeAnne Walters, names multiple corporate entities and three current and former government employees for their role in the city’s water crisis.

Walters claims her four children have been exposed to extremely high levels of lead and have experienced brain development injuries, cognitive deficits and other problems.

“It’s time for the kids to be heard,” Walters’ attorney, Corey Stern said. “With so much talk among officials, heads of corporations, and the media, the reality of what happened to these children – and how it will affect each of them for the rest of their lives – has been drowned out in the noise.”

The lawsuit alleges the companies hired evaluate and review the city’s water services, Rowe Professional Services Company, Veolia and Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam, committed professional negligence by failing to insist on corrosion control for the city’s treated water.

Former Flint Public Utilities Director Howard Croft, former Michigan DEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel and Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells are accused of gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress for their “outrageous conduct” that allowed lead to remain in the water despite residents’ concerns, according to the lawsuit.

This is only the first of many, according to Walters’ attorney who said, “We are prepared to file as many individual cases for children in Flint as there are children in this city who have been lead poisoned. The number of children harmed should not deprive each child of his or her individual day in court.”

Walters along with Flint pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha are being honored with the 2016 PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award for their activism and heroism in the face of a state government that repeated ignored them and then maligned them in an effort to discredit their alarm bells.

Godspeed, Ms. Walters.

State Auditor General report finds DEQ’s oversight of drinking water “not sufficient”

The State Auditor General released a report this morning following an investigation of the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), calling their oversight of Michigan’s drinking water “not sufficient“:

Michigan’s Office of the Auditor General has found deficiencies in the state’s oversight of community water supplies — a likely critique of the Department of Environmental Quality’s handling of the Flint crisis.

Investigators took a hard look at one DEQ unit in particular, the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance. That department has been at the heart of questions raised about how the state oversaw Flint’s water issues while the city was under the control of an emergency manager.

A summary of the audit released this week used the phrase “not sufficient” to describe the department’s oversight of Michigan’s Community Water Supply Program.

All together now: YA THINK???!

Federal government okays expansion of Medicaid to cover more kids and their families in Flint

Here’s some good news:

Federal officials say they will expand Medicaid coverage for Flint families to make additional health care and other services available to thousands of children up to age 21, as well as pregnant women, who have received water from the city’s lead-contaminated system.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that those now eligible include Flint households making up to 400 percent of the poverty level — rather than the usual 130 percent ceiling in Michigan — for those living in Flint between April 2014 and a future date when the water system is deemed safe by Gov. Rick Snyder.

For example, a family of four making up to $97,200 a year or an individual making $47,520 would qualify for the waiver under the eligibility guidelines. The program is normally targeted at the poor.

Thank heavens this didn’t require an okay from the U.S. Senate or it never would have happened.

Gov. Snyder takes a break from hiring lawyers and PR firms to brag about 81 new jobs in Flint

As Chad Selweski noted at his most-excellent Politically Speaking blog, Gov. Snyder took time from his busy schedule to post a press release on the state government website bragging about the new jobs he’s brought to Flint. Here’s Chad’s commentary:

Among the pathetic efforts by Gov. Rick Snyder to confront the horrific revelations about his administration’s inability to deal with the Flint water crisis – including the hiring of two outside PR firms and the shakeup within his internal communications team – the announcement by Snyder earlier today may be the most tone-deaf response yet.

Snyder tried to put lipstick on a pig by trumpeting plans to hire 81 Flint residents for temporary jobs distributing bottled water to city residents.

According to a press release, the Snyder administration decided to replace Michigan National Guard troops with Flint residents as the water distribution efforts continue. Once hired, the governor’s PR team declared, “participants will fill leadership and general team member roles.”

“Members of the Flint community continue to support each other and there is no better group to assist in this effort. The partnership with Michigan Works! is another step toward ensuring Flint residents benefit from relief efforts in multiple ways.”

Beyond that, Snyder declared that Michigan Works! (an agency title with such irony that it seems to be lost on the governor) will provide the water distributors with “future careers by working closely with our staff, who will help them build skills for the job market.”

As someone on the internets recently said, “I have run out of evens to can’t.”