For the past year the people of Flint, Michigan have been demanding something be done about the city’s poop-colored water, which they have been told by state and local officials for months is “probably drinkable.” Or not.
After a year of ignoring the fact that the water running through the taps in Flint is the color of chocolate, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has suddenly acknowledged that there is, indeed, a problem with the water.
This video, recorded by Flint’s club937.com in January, more than eight months ago, shows what the people of Flint have been dealing with, since Governor Snyder’s emergency manager made the decision to change the source of the city’s water supply last year.
As it turns out, that brown water is contaminated with lead. Although Michigan officials repeatedly assured local residents that the brown fluid oozing from their taps was “probably safe” to drink, a year later the rate of Flint children who have elevated levels of lead in their blood stream has climbed from about 2 percent to more than 6 percent in some areas of the city. The increase in incidents of lead-poisoning, the effects of which are lifelong, directly correlate with the change in the city’s water source.
To save money, Governor Snyder’s appointed emergency manager made the decision to begin getting the city’s water from the Flint River in 2014. For ten months the residents were kept in the dark about high levels of pollutants in the water. In the months following the switch, many citizens reported experiencing rashes, hair loss and other health issues.
In January, residents were notified of elevated levels of TTHM, or total trihalomethane in the water supply, which failed to meet standards set forth in the Clean Drinking Water Act. Although the health of thousands of people was potentially impacted by this, almost a year passed before the residents were notified.
Following the January notice, the city of Detroit offered to supply drinking water to Flint again, as had been the case for decades before Snyder’s emergency manager assumed complete control of the city. The emergency manager refused the offer, claiming that it would cost too much to return to the previous system.
State and local officials continued to downplay the issues with Flint’s water, while residents continued to report discoloration, odor and a range of health concerns.
Even after an independent study, conducted by University of Michigan College of Human Medicine, showed the sudden increase in the number of children diagnosed with lead poisoning in the city, the Snyder administration continued to deny the problem.
Between September 25, when the results of the study first showed elevated lead in the blood of Flint area children, and October 8, when Governor Rick Snyder finally admitted there is a very real problem with the city’s water, officials continued to insist the poop-colored-water was not “a real problem.”
On October 8, however, Governor Snyder suddenly changed gears, saying he now supports reconnecting the city with the Detroit water system.
Progress Michigan responded to the governor’s announcement:
“Governor Snyder’s announcement confirmed what we already knew, that his emergency manager poisoned children and families in Flint. It should not have taken this long for the governor to admit that he was wrong and take action to fix the problem that he created. The damage that the governor and the emergency manager have done in Flint doesn’t stop with the water switch. The question now is, who is going to be held responsible for poisoning people in Flint and how are Snyder and our elected officials going to ensure that this doesn’t happen in other cities in Michigan?”
Governor Snyder’s emergency managers are hand-selected by the governor himself. Once any town, city or school is targeted for a Snyder emergency manager, all elected officials are rendered powerless. Since Snyder’s emergency managers are not elected but appointed, they do not answer to the public. They cannot be recalled or voted out. The state’s appointed emergency managers are not even subject to oversight by the state legislature. The only person a Michigan emergency manager answers to is the Rick Snyder.
Under the emergency manager law, Public Act 436, which was passed by the state’s right-wing government after voters repealed a similar law at the polls, emergency managers are immune from liability.
“An emergency manager is immune from liability as provided in section 7(5) of 1964 PA 170, MCL 691.1407. A person employed by an emergency manager is immune from liability as provided in section 7(2) of 1964 PA 170, MCL 691.1407.”
There is really no question about who should be accountable for the nightmare in Flint. Governor Snyder made the decision to appoint an emergency in Flint. He hand-picked that person and with the help of the state’s far right government, gave him total power and total immunity. The citizens were stripped of their right to be represented by local officials of their own choosing. They were also stripped of the right to recall or vote out the governor’s hand-picked, appointed representative.
Someone must be held responsible for poisoning the children of Flint. The emergency manager may be immune, but the people who selected him, installed him and gave him total power are still accountable to Michigan voters. Let’s hope that they get them all out of office before their poor decision-making harms anymore innocent people.
*featured image credit: Pixabay, CCO, public domain