On World Water Day, Obama announces new investments in infrastructure while Snyder administration still drags its feet


Coinciding with World Water Day, the Obama administration released details of massive investments in water resource conservation, water system infrastructure upgrades, and heightened awareness of water resources in general. You can read the full report HERE. Of particular interest to Michigan in light of the Flint water crisis, the report outlines a number of corporate responses to the White House call to action that will target water assistance to those in need across the USA:

  • The Dow Chemical Company is partnering with Genesee County Habitat for Humanity to offer free water-filtration systems to 150 Habitat for Humanity homes in Flint, MI. Through this partnership, Dow will provide the reverse osmosis (RO) technology for the the water-filtration systems that will be installed in residents’ homes.
  • Evoqua will donate 10 Sky Hydrant water-filtration units—each with the capacity to meet the daily water needs of more than 6,000 people—to underserved, emergency, and disaster-relief efforts in the United States. In addition, Evoqua is committing to (1) invest an additional $50 million in research and development to further expand water reuse and reclamation efforts across municipal and industrial applications in the United States; and (2) to, by 2021, increase the amount of water the company treats for reuse and reclamation to 5 billion gallons of water a day—double Evoqua’s current capacity.
  • Micronic Technologies is announcing that it will provide its MicroDesalTM technology at reduced cost to small community water/wastewater facilities to moderate deteriorating infrastructure. Micronic is also committing to developing this technology through partner collaborations—in particular, with the University of Virginia’s College at Wise—to provide secure, safe, potable water to small, remote communities throughout the United States and the world.
  • In response to extreme drought in the State of California, the San Francisco Foundation is investing $150,000 in partner organizations to address social vulnerability and build community resilience to water scarcity in low-income communities and communities of color. The grants will help community groups engage in the implementation of California’s new drought measure and ensure that the associated public revenues build sustainable water projects in disadvantaged communities, among other activities.
  • Triple Clear Water Solutions, Inc., a company that provides plug-and-play water-purification technologies, is committing 1% of its sales—which is expected to be more than $1 million over the next several years—to fund clean-water initiatives in communities in need of help.
  • WaterFX and Partners in Health have teamed up to form OpenWATER, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the deployment of innovative water technologies for enhancing water security in resource-poor and underrepresented communities such as rural communities, tribal nations, and island territories. OpenWATER will draw on WaterFX’s experience in sustainable water treatment—to deliver water technologies in tens of communities over the next two to three years.

Meanwhile, today marks the 173rd day since Gov. Snyder announced that Flint had a problem with lead in its residents drinking water (though evidence suggests he knew – or least SHOULD have known – for much longer than that.) Since that time, exactly ZERO lead water service lines have been replaced in Flint through the actions of the Snyder administration.

This week, Gov. Snyder did call for more stringent water quality regulations in the state of Michigan, more stringent, in fact, than federal regulations:

Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday he wants Flint and the entire state to have more stringent lead-level regulations than what federal rules require, following the city’s water contamination crisis.

In the long term, Michigan will comply with a “much higher standard,” according to a state document laying out the next steps in Flint in four areas — water supply and infrastructure, health and human services, education, and economic development.

Much of the plan released Monday is not necessarily new but more of an effort to compile various state tasks into one document — both to delineate short-, medium and long-range goals but also to combat critics who have accused the Republican governor of not doing enough to help Flint.

Snyder did not specify what regulations his administration will seek. Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules that Snyder has called “dumb and dangerous,” a water system must take steps to control corrosion if lead concentrations exceed 15 parts per billion in more than 10 percent of customer taps sampled.

This sounds very nice but the chances of it happening seem slim. Not long after Republicans took control of our state government in 2011, they passed House Bill 4326, better known as the “No more stringent than federal” bill. If signed into law, this bill would forbid Michigan from passing regulations more stringent than federal regulations. It’s a concept supported by the corporatist front group Mackinac Center for Public Policy for over a decade. The state Chamber of Commerce called it “pro-business legislation” that would “dramatically curb regulatory overreach by state departments”.

The bill passed the House with 95% of Republicans voting for it and 95% of Democrats voting against it. It passed the Senate with 95% of Republicans voting for it and 97% of Democrats voting against it. Gov. Snyder did end up vetoing the bill but you can see the headwind he faces in getting legislation like what he’s proposing through our tea party-controlled state legislature. Regulations, particularly more stringent regulations and most particularly more stringent environmental regulations are an anathema to our corporatist Republican legislators who have majorities in both chambers.

So, while the Michigan Republican Party wants you to believe that the Flint water crisis is President Obama’s fault, the truth is that it is Republicans who have put in place policies that created the catastrophe in Flint and it is Republicans who want to make it easier for corporations to pollute our environment with impunity.

UPDATE: Gov. Snyder also spoke to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids this week where he received a standing ovation. He then proceeded to throw his staffers under the bus yet again:

“I hope they appreciate the fact I took responsibility for some of the people that worked for me, the tragic mistakes they made, and I’m focused on fixing the problem.” […]

(Bad decisions by bureaucrats) is what caused the problem, folks, but I’m responsible,” Snyder said. “Those folks worked for me and, believe me, I kick myself every day wondering what questions I could have asked. Why didn’t we just use some common sense?

“It created a problem and people are suffering.

Good thing HE didn’t make any “tragic mistakes” in this whole sordid affair, eh?

By the way, those “career bureaucrats” that Gov. Snyder refers to so much these days are people the rest of us call “civil servants”.