Earlier this month, I suggested that the Snyder administration has no intention of replacing a single water line in Flint where the drinking water was contaminated with the powerful neurotoxin lead through the actions of Snyder’s appointed Emergency Managers and the ineptitude of his appointee at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Dan Wyant, a man with zero experience in managing water systems:
Amid all this non-action, the Snyder administration has started to warn municipalities that they should avoid “partial lead service line replacements”. […]
Add to this the fact that Flint water lead levels are beginning to drop as the phosphate added to the water for corrosion protection is building up a protective layer on the inside of water lines and it is starting to look as if the Snyder administration is simply waiting until lead levels have dropped enough for Flint residents to begin using their water again. Once that has happened, they could simply point to the data and say, “See? Everything is fine. Nothing to worry about.”
There’s now more evidence that this is exactly what their plan is:
“If we make a policy decision that we should replace the lead lines, then we have to be thinking about that across the state,” said John Walsh, strategy director for Gov. Rick Snyder, at a Grand Rapids chamber meeting in March. “If you do it for one community, another is going to wonder why you didn’t do it for them.”
Mark my words, the Snyder administration is not going to be involved in replacing ANY lead water service lines in Flint. They are going to wait until lead levels drop and then suggest it’s unfair to give them any sort of “special treatment”. The fact is, after the catastrophe that they themselves caused, the Snyder administration owes it to Flint residents and the 9,000 children that have potentially been poisoned with lead to make it right. But that’s not going to happen.
Meanwhile, the legal team hired by Gov. Snyder is arguing in court that Flint residents who have filed a lawsuit against him for his harmful actions that led to the Flint water crisis and his inaction since the problem became undeniable waited too long to file their suit:
Lawyers for Gov. Rick Snyder want a proposed class action lawsuit filed by Flint residents over water contamination dismissed because it was not filed within six months of the city’s April 2014 water switch.
Filed Monday in the Michigan Court of Claims, Snyder’s attorneys argue that plaintiffs Melissa Mays and nine other Flint residents filed their claim for damages on Jan. 15, 2016, when the “cause of action” occurred — use of the Flint River water without corrosion treatment — on April 25, 2014.
The lawsuit says either the claim itself or a notice of intent to file the claim must be filed within six months of the event that gave rise to the cause of action.
“Plaintiffs did not give timely notice of their claims. There is no legal basis for extending the notice period,” the complaint said.
This jaw-dropping argument is being put forth by a legal team being paid for with our tax dollars. It suggests that Flint residents should have somehow been aware that they were being poisoned even though they were told repeatedly for over a year by the Snyder administration that everything was just fine and that they could “relax”. That statement was made by a Snyder spokesman over six months after their lawsuit was filed. Snyder himself didn’t concede that there was a problem until October of last year, 195 days ago.
As all of this plays out, Gov. Snyder continues to blame others for the outcomes of his policies, once again telling an audience that it was civil servants who are to blame, not the terrible decisions of those he put in charge or the failed policy of Emergency Management:
On the water crisis, he said career civil servants showed “an absolute lack of common sense,” and that instead of adding $150 in daily chemicals to the water supply — which previously had been added before the water’s source was switched to the Flint River — they decided to test the water for two six-month periods.
This week, Gov. Snyder’s own Flint Water Advisory Task Force once again explained that it was Gov. Snyder’s culture of austerity as the solution to municipal fiscal crises and his un-democratic Emergency Manager law that are to blame for the catastrophe in Flint:
A lack of local input under state-appointed emergency managers is one reason the Flint water contamination crisis is “a clear case” of environmental injustice, the Republican co-chair of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Flint Water Advisory Task Force told legislators Tuesday.
Residents in the minority-majority city did not have “meaningful voice” in local decisions that led to the crisis, former state Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema said in testimony before the Joint Select Committee on The Flint Water Public Health Emergency.
They also “did not get equal treatment” when it came to public health and access to safe drinking water available in neighboring communities, said Sikkema, now a senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants. […]
Changes “have to start at the top,” said Sikkema, noting task force recommendations that focused on the governor’s office. “They start with leadership articulating the kind of culture they want.”
During their testimony, Committee members used phrases like “The emergency managers bring nothing and they leave less, because their primary function is financial and there’s very little concern for the safety of citizens and no ability to respond to emergencies” and “The emergency manager structure does a tremendous job providing support and help on the financial piece, but it’s sort of loosey-goosey on everything else” and “The tone of communication from government was to deny and discredit individuals with a different opinion…Over and over, we saw this tone of deny and discredit, and in a public agency you have to be respectful of everybody.”
As Gov. Snyder continues to face an increasing number of lawsuits, the people of Flint still cannot drink their water without filtering it first:
The Flint, Mich., water system is in much better shape six months after the city switched its water source and began adding chemicals to control corrosion of aging pipes, but the threat of lead contamination remains, researchers said Tuesday. […]
“There are very positive trends. . . . The system is definitely on its path to recovery,” said Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor whose work helped bring Flint’s water crisis to light. But because recent samples showed that potentially dangerous levels of lead persist, “at present, no one should be drinking unfiltered water in Flint.” […]
Under current lead-in-water regulations, at least 90 percent of homes tested by a water utility must remain below the federal 15 ppb “action level.” The 90 percentile of samples taken last month in Flint was 23 ppb, Edwards said.
In what appears to be a related tragedy, the number of people who have died from Legionnaires’ Disease in the Flint area during a spike that coincides with the switch to using the Flint River as their primary water source has now risen to 12:
State health officials have increased the number of deaths associated with an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area to 12, up from 10.
There were 91 confirmed cases of the disease — a severe type of pneumonia — during a 17-month period in 2014 and 2015, according to the state health department’s updated numbers released Monday. In previous years, 6 to 13 cases were typically confirmed annually in Genesee County.
This is clearly a story that will not be going away any time soon. In the meantime, it has been nearly 100 days since Gov. Snyder admitted there was a problem with Flint’s water and not one lead water service line has been removed through the actions of his administration and the people of Flint STILL cannot drink their water, cook with it, or bathe in it without filtering it first.