A Giant Step Forward in the Flint, Michigan, Water Crisis

From Rhea Suh, President NRDC


Unless you’re a Republican, nowadays

❝ For once, I am excited to report that there is good news on the Flint water crisis front. The pipes at the heart of the disaster are going to be replaced. For the first time in the three years since this Michigan city’s water was turned to poison, Flint’s citizens have a guarantee that the resources are in place to replace its estimated 18,000 lead pipes. And for the first time, they know when the pipes will be gone.

Let’s be clear, Flint is not fixed. But things are going to get better.

❝ This did not happen because of the city, state, or federal governments that failed them. It happened because brave people in Flint stood up for their neighbors. They went to court. One of the genius parts of American environmental protections are the citizen suit provisions in our major environmental laws. When the government fails to protect its citizens, we are all empowered to go to court and force the government to do its job.

❝ That happened in Flint. After the city and state trashed the drinking water infrastructure through a series of mistakes and errors, we joined with the Concerned Pastors for Social Action and Flint resident Melissa Mays to petition the federal government to use its emergency powers to help the beleaguered city. They refused. So, along with ACLU Michigan, we sued the city and state. The Safe Drinking Water Act also has provisions for citizens to enforce drinking water rules. Though there have only been a handful of these kinds of cases filed under the act, we all thought Flint seemed like a textbook situation for this type of case…

And today, that suit comes to the end with a settlement that guarantees that in three years, the lead pipes will be replaced. It guarantees that the state kicks in $67 million to help fix the mistakes, along with tens of millions more from federal sources…

❝ …But for today, let’s just celebrate good news for Flint. A city that deserves far more of it in the years to come.

I’ll second that emotion. RTFA for more details, past and present. Rhea Suh is too politely politic to trash-talk the conservatives, mostly in the Republican Party – and some Democrats deserve their share of condemnation for foot-dragging.

Too many folks hold elective office who consider budgets and balance sheets more important than the lives of the human beings they represent.

7 thoughts on “A Giant Step Forward in the Flint, Michigan, Water Crisis

  1. Mike says:

    According to Reuters, about 2.5 percent of American infants and children six and under have elevated lead levels in their blood. (“Off the Charts : The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than in Flint http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-lead-testing/#interactive-lead ) In Flint, 5 percent of the children screened had elevated levels. Meanwhile, in New Mexico between 2006 and 2015, those numbers were even higher in 29 communities statewide. In Williamsburg for instance 11.11% of the children screened had elevated levels of lead in their blood. However in a significant portion of New Mexico, fewer than 5 percent of kids had been tested for lead. In some areas, there was no testing data at all.
    “State remains silent on lead poisoning data” By Laura Paskus http://nmpoliticalreport.com/246824/state-remains-silent-lead-poisoning-data-en/
    See also “Gov’s office cites complex questions from reporters, busy schedule as defense in lawsuit” http://nmpoliticalreport.com/240874/govs-office-cites-complex-questions-from-reporters-busy-schedule-as-defense-in-lawsuit/

  2. Update says:

    This week, the state of Michigan is expected to announce that it will pay $600 million to victims of the Flint water crisis, two people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times.
    In 2014, the city of Flint switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the polluted Flint River, and for nearly two years, residents were exposed to lead-contaminated water. Tens of thousands of residents are expected to be eligible to receive funds, the Times reports, with most of the settlement money going to children. The settlement is still subject to approval by a federal judge. https://theweek.com/speedreads/932398/michigan-reportedly-pay-600-million-flint-water-crisis-victims
    (NYT): “Michigan to Pay $600 Million to Victims of Flint Water Crisis : Residents were left ill and relying on bottled water. Health officials said the effects on children were most concerning.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/19/us/flint-water-crisis-settlement.html
    (Vice 4/16/20): “Michigan’s Ex-Gov. Rick Snyder Knew About Flint’s Toxic Water—and Lied About It : Six years after the city of Flint, Michigan, began using a toxic water source that sickened its residents, VICE uncovered payoffs, the silencing of a whistleblower, a shady financial deal, a coverup, and the former governor who presided over it all.” https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/z3bdp9/michigans-ex-gov-rick-snyder-knew-about-flints-toxic-waterand-lied-about-it
    Re: criminal prosecutions (or the lack thereof) see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flint_water_crisis#Criminal_prosecutions

  3. Update says:

    “Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and others in his administration are expected to be charged for their role in the Flint water crisis, sources confirmed to CBS News. The ongoing crisis, which began in 2014, exposed residents of the majority Black community to high levels of lead and was also blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires disease.
    Snyder, former health director Nick Lyon and other former officials are expected to face charges, although specifics have not been announced. Since 2014, at least 15 current or former state and city officials and staff have been indicted in connection to the water crisis. Some of those charges had previously been dismissed, but the forthcoming charges are believed to stem from a newer investigation brought about by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/flint-water-crisis-michigan-rick-snyder-expected-charges/

  4. Update says:

    A federal judge in the United States has approved a $626m settlement for victims of the lead water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in a case brought by tens of thousands of residents who were affected by the contaminated water.
    The payment, awarded on Wednesday, is one of the largest civil settlements in Michigan’s history, and will mainly go to people who were children at the time of the water crisis in Flint.
    The case became emblematic of racial inequality in the US as it afflicted a city where more than half of the 100,000 residents are Black. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/11/us-judge-approves-626m-water-settlement-for-flint-michigan

  5. Update says:

    Charges against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and eight others in the Flint water contamination scandal have been dropped by the state’s Supreme Court.
    State laws merely “authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants,” but “do not authorize the judge to issue indictments,” the court’s 6-0 opinion reads. https://www.thedailybeast.com/michigans-top-court-spikes-charges-against-ex-guv-rick-snyder-8-others-in-flint-water-scandal

  6. Post-mortem says:

    An assessment of a household probability sample of adult Flint residents 5 years after the onset of the water crisis yielded 4 principal findings. First, expanding on previous findings of problems identified during and just after the crisis researchers found that mental health concerns remained significantly elevated in Flint relative to other populations. Overall, 1 in 5 surveyed Flint residents met criteria over the past year for presumptive major depression, 1 in 4 for presumptive PTSD, and 1 in 10 for comorbid depression and PTSD. Applying these weighted sample prevalence estimates to the population suggests that approximately 22,600 Flint residents may have had depression, 25,000 may have had PTSD, and 14,300 may have had comorbid depression and PTSD in 2019 to 2020.
    “The mental health burden of America’s largest public-works environmental disaster clearly continues for many adults in Flint,” said Aaron Reuben, a postdoctoral scholar at Duke University who led the research, which appears Sept. 20 in JAMA Network Open. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/965045
    Depression and PTSD are among the most common and impairing of mental disorders, costing well over $326 billion a year in America due to lost work hours and costs of medical care.
    This project was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime.

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