It has now been 328 days since Gov. Rick Snyder publicly admitted that the drinking water in the city of Flint, Michigan had been contaminated with the powerful neurotoxin lead. This admission came months and months after the problem had been brought to light and, in the 328 days since then, no lead water service lines have been replaced through the actions of his administration. This is despite the fact that the poisoning was the direct result of cost-saving measures taken by his appointed Emergency Manager overseers and the failure of top administrator in his administration, Dept. of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant, who was clearly unqualified for his job.
Some water lines HAVE been replaced. 33 to be exact. These were the result of Flint Mayor Karen Weaver’s “FAST Start” program. The state legislature appropriated $25 million for the job, a sum that is not nearly enough to deal with the vast scope of this problem, a problem compounded by the removal of democracy in Flint and the takeover by a single Snyder appointee as Emergency Manager:
Michael McDaniel is in charge of a program called “FAST Start,” with the aim of replacing all lead service lines in the city in one year. Despite its name, only 33 homes have had the work done since the program’s February launch. The former brigadier general of the Michigan National Guard describes a bogged-down infrastructure repair program hamstrung by lack of money and manpower.
“When we started, there was no city administrator, no chief of staff, no director of public works, no city engineer and only one purchasing officer,” he said. “There was no capacity.” […]
The state has anted up $25 million for pipe replacement. That’s less than half what Branch says the city needs, but could provide a good start. That money is stuck in limbo, however, because the state placed a limit of $5,000 per home on pipe replacement, and Flint’s lowest bid for the work is over $6,000.
Instead of addressing this continuing calamity now over two years old, Gov. Rick Snyder is feuding with his Attorney General Bill Schuette. At Schuette’s request, a Genesee County judge issued a “confidential order” which Snyder says is hampering the ability of the state to deal with another ongoing problem: Legionnaires’ Disease.
Gov. Rick Snyder today announced that the state Department of Health and Human Services would challenge a court order they say limits contact between two state departments and the Genesee County Health Department or McLaren Hospital.
The governor’s office said in a press release that an Aug. 17 court order originating in Genesee County Circuit Court “purports to prohibit DHHS and the state Department of Environmental Quality from interacting with the Genesee County Health Department or McLaren Hospital on anything related to Flint and the recovery from the water crisis currently underway.”
Snyder spokesperson Ari Adler would not reveal which case the order was related to or any regarding an order he said was confidential.
Schuette’s office claims Snyder is full of it and that he’s just trying to “protect the health data related to lead poisoning and legionella deaths in Flint.” So they are going to court, spending precious tax dollars on internecine bickering. It’s the modern day equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.
And those tax dollars ARE precious. The federal declaration of emergency recently ended, putting the state on the hook for supplying bottled water to people who recently learned that lead contamination is still an issue.
There is some hope that lead water lines will begin to be replaced before the one-year anniversary comes:
Flint’s delayed program to replace damaged lines restarted today in an effort to switch out as many as 250 service lines made of lead.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver kicked off the second phase of her FAST Start initiative by announcing the neighborhoods where work will begin. Contractors are expected to contact homeowners to seek their permission to do the work.
Officials did not say how quickly they expect the pipe replacement to take. To date, city efforts funded by the state have only replaced 33 lines in a program marked by delays over projected costs.
So, yeah, some day. Not sure when. Could happen any time. Some day.
If you’re thinking about betting on whether it will happen before Day 365, I wouldn’t.