LIAR: Rick Snyder’s Misleading Claim About Who Changed Flint’s Water

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The city’s leaders didn’t start this mess.

At his annual State of the State address on Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) accepted blame for the water crisis in Flint and offered an explanation for how it started.

“This crisis began in the spring of 2013, when the Flint City Council voted 7-1 to buy water from the Karegnondi Water Authority,” he said.

It’s simpler than that: Snyder’s government gave Flint bad water treatment advice, and the city got bad water. And it’s also more complicated: City officials did play a role, but Snyder’s version of events oversells it.

“The governor’s been trying to use that line — that action that was taken by the city council — to remove himself from this problem,” former Flint City Council member Josh Freeman told “So That Happened,” the HuffPost Politics podcast.

As for the decision to join the KWA, it was made even before Flint’s elected leaders voted — by the emergency manager Snyder had appointed to run Flint’s affairs because the city was broke. The manager had total control over the city’s government and the council only got to weigh in because the director of the new water authority insisted.

“I said, ‘I will not accept that,'” Karegnondi CEO Jeff Wright recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post. “I do require a decision of this magnitude to be voted on by the elected representatives of the people.”

So on that fateful day, the Flint City Council voted to join the KWA, knowing the new system wouldn’t be ready until 2016. The Detroit Water & Sewerage Department had been raising Flint’s rates every year, resulting in some of the state’s highest water bills. City and state officials believed Flint could save millions of dollars by joining the new system.

Then the Detroit system, from which the city had been buying its water for nearly 50 years, notified Flint and the surrounding Genesee County that it would be cutting off their service in the spring of 2014.

What could be done between 2014 and 2016, when the KWA came online? Genesee County opted to continue buying water from Detroit, but at a 10 percent higher rate, according to Wright, who is Genesee’s drain commissioner in addition to being the CEO of the KWA.

Flint wound up going for the Flint River, though it’s not clear exactly how the decision was made.

“At no time had we decided to use the Flint River… as our primary water source,” said Freeman, who resigned from the council in December after serving more than 10 years.

Dayne Walling, who served as Flint’s mayor until Karen Weaver unseated him in November, told the Detroit Free Press that month that emergency manager Edward Kurtz made the decision not long after the KWA vote. Kurtz also signed an orderhiring a firm “for assistance in placing the Flint Water Plant into operation using the Flint River as a primary drinking water source for approximately two years,” though Kurtz wasn’t in charge when the switch happened in 2014.

Regardless of whether they had a hand in the decision, however, Flint City Council members said they didn’t think using the Flint River was a crazy idea, and they didn’t object. The Flint River already served as the city’s official backup. It had been used twice in 2009, but not for longer than a week. The Flint Water Treatment Plant pumped water several times each year for the sole purpose of making sure it stayed ready.

Monica Galloway, who represents Flint’s 7th Ward on the council, was at the plant that day in 2014 when Walling ceremoniously pushed a button to make the change. Galloway thought the Flint River represented an opportunity to lower her constituents’ water bills.

“I thought, ‘This can be good. We have had such high water bills,'” Galloway said in an interview. “It just seems like as a community, for me, man, we got a hold on something we can control.”

Nobody expected the water switch to result in lead-poisoned children, undrinkable water, a declaration of a federal emergency and the National Guard assisting with door-to-door delivery of bottled water. The river water wound up leaching lead from the city’s aging pipes because the city failed to control for the water’s corrosiveness.

Here’s what went wrong: Instead of telling the city to treat the water, the Michigan Department of Environment Quality told it to just monitor the water for a year, then decide what kind of corrosion treatment it needed, according to an MDEQ memo from November that was included in Snyder’s recently released emails relating to the crisis.

An Environmental Protection Agency official reported in a leaked June memo that high lead levels were possible in Flint because the city did not have a system for controlling corrosion. After the memo came to light, the EPA said it had been a mere draft; state officials used that assurance to downplay its warnings.

“A major concern from a public health standpoint is the absence of corrosion control treatment in the City of Flint for mitigating lead and copper levels in the drinking water,” the memo said. “Recent drinking water sample results indicate the presence of high lead results in the drinking water, which is to be expected in a public water system that is not providing corrosion control treatment.”

Claiming ambiguity in requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the MDEQ and the EPA said not controlling for corrosiveness was an honest mistake; Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech corrosion expert who helped expose Flint’s high lead levels over the summer, has insisted it was an egregious one. The head of the MDEQ and the regional director of the EPA have since resigned after both agencies moved slowly last year in the face of growing alarm over high lead levels.

Edwards said his own experiments with adding corrosion inhibitors to Flint water samples reduced the water’s ability to leach heavy metals from pipe materials.

“Had they followed the law, the switch would have been considered a success,” Edwards said.

Snyder, for his part, has admitted the state made mistakes and has apologized repeatedly.

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Dear People Of Michigan: We Told You So

TDHXdRlDear People Of Michigan: We Told You So

Back in 2011, when an unknown, nerdy former chairman of the board of a former computer giant called Gateway was sworn in as governor of the state of Michigan, his plans for the state set off alarm bells in more than a few state residents. Raising taxes on poor people and old people, cutting over a billion dollars out of the school budget to offset two billion in corporate tax cuts made us cringe. Then we learned of something even worse: A plan to substantially increase the powers and duties of the Emergency Financial Manager.

Governor Blanchard first used emergency managers during his administration. They had no power in any way to overrule the democratically elected local government, their purpose simply included helping that government work on budgeting better and get out of debt. The Nerd changed that. He decided that emergency managers shouldn’t share power, they should have ALL the power. They would strip the local government of all authority, break contracts, fire at will, and privatize any and all services the city, school district, township, or county provided to the residents. The Up North Progressive was one of many who noticed this sounded an awful lot like the plot of RoboCop.

It didn’t take long for those of us who were alarmed by this venture capitalist nerd and his sinister plans to organize and beat the streets. We worked through the summer of 2011 collecting signatures to recall him and hold a new election. We worked hard asking the unions to get involved. They refused. We worked hard to get the Democratic Party behind us. They refused. Michael Moore? Not a peep from him. As it slowly and depressingly sank in that we were stuck with Snyder for four years, we worked on other petition drives, including getting rid of the Nerd’s despicable emergency manager law. We didn’t succeed in collecting enough signatures to recall him, but we did collect enough to put eliminating P.A. 4 a.k.a Rick Snyder’s democracy-killing emergency manager law up to a vote of the people. The referendum went on the ballot in 2012, and the law was repealed.

Then Rick Snyder simply had the state legislature write up and pass a new version of the emergency manager law. Despite promising the city of Detroit there would be no bankruptcy, he secretly worked on finding an emergency manager to do just that. Despite obvious evidence that the Education Achievement Authority was a colossal failure, he threatened the rest of state he would expand his special pet school district to everyone. Despite the Michigan State Constitution banning school vouchers, he had software developers and members of his administration holding secret meetings called ‘skunkworks’ to force illegal school vouchers down Michiganians’ throats.

By the time 2014 came, his emergency managers were entrenched in communities helping Snyder’s corporate friends scoop up the assets and privatize them. Detroit residents had their water shut off. Detroit businesses continued getting all the water they wanted while owing millions to the city. As if cutting off city residents to water wasn’t bad enough, an even more deadly horror silently flowed into the taps of homes of Flint residents.

resignResignation that the Nerd won another four years to destroy Michigan gave way to anger when people made noise that Flint was being poisoned by the water they had to drink thanks to Rick Snyder’s emergency manager. There is no way to blame this on the city of Flint, or their elected leaders. The local government had no power. They didn’t make the decision to switch to a water supply that was toxic, the decision was made for them by a Snyder appointee who only had to report to Snyder.

So far, making sure branding the crisis is a priority to helping the people suffering through the crisis:

Good thing we have the logo sorted. How else would anyone know the state is taking proactive steps to solve problems? They’re not taking proactive steps. Mostly the state has been in damage control mode trying to figure out how to deal with what is according to them “apparently going to be a thing now.”

According to FOIA records, we know the Snyder administration knew 6 months ago there was a problem with the water in Flint. The city had already been poisoned with the water for a year by then. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality denied the reports, told the EPA they were wrong. Told specialists from Virginia Tech they were wrong. Told pediatricians testing children’s blood and finding alarming levels of lead they were wrong. None of them were wrong. Lansing was wrong. Rick Snyder was wrong.

What happened in Flint, Detroit, and everywhere else Snyder has touched with his toxic hand is criminal. At the least, he shouldn’t be Governor anymore. His political career should be dead. Ideally, Snyder should have to answer for his crimes. Unfortunately he won’t.

Back in 2011, a small group of people realized the damage Rick Snyder could potentially do to the state and organized a recall campaign to get rid of him. Imagine how different things would be today if we had support from the unions, the Democratic Party, more people who knew what Snyder was doing was wrong, but didn’t get involved. Hate to say it, but we told you so.
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Following Flint Tragedy, Republican Congress Votes to Block Clean Water Bill

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Flint has recently had a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint, which has killed 10 and sickened 87, which came on top of the revelations that the water has been poisoned with lead for years and that some state officials ignored evidence for months. Now just a day after that outbreak, a bipartisan bill on the national stage called the “Waters of the United States rule” has been voted against by Montana’s delegates, which will block the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean water rule.

The GOP-dominated U.S. Congress passed this bill, which will stop the EPA from caring for many of the waterways in the US, including the lead-polluted supply from the Flint River.

Corporate lobbyists spent millions encouraging Republicans to block clean water legislation despite the ongoing Flint water crisis. The bill has seen enthusiastic support from corporate interests. The US Chamber of Commerce, Dairy Farmers of America, chemical companies, utility companies, energy companies, mining companies, and logging companies are among over 230 organizations that listed the bill on lobbying disclosures since it was proposed in March 2014.

At first glance, the vote was unrelated to the Flint water emergency. If Obama does not veto this bill as he is expected to, it will allow more mismanagement of Flint’s already tainted water supply. Residents of the city will have life-long damages from lead poisoning, others are facing an already deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak, and many more were forced to buy expensive bottled water and filtration systems for years before the Governor Rick Snyder declared a State of Emergency and allowed people to begin providing aid.

Activists and residents are demanding the resignation of Governor Rick Snyder, and they furthermore demand that criminal charges be filed against him for mismanaging the Detroit water crisis. About 200 activists protested at Flint City Hall on January 8th. Today, dozens of people put on a demonstration inside the Michigan state Capitol.

House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel was quoted at the protest saying, “If the governor personally knew this was going on and decided not to do anything then yes, he should step down. But we first have to ascertain what did he know, and when did he know it.” More than 100 people came in on buses from Flint, and met with another group of protestors from Detroit. Protestors chanted that Snyder has “got to go.”

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The people of #Michigan are filling up the rotunda in Lansing calling for Governor Rick Snyder to be held accountable for the #FlintWaterCrisis!

Posted by Cameron Fure on Thursday, January 14, 2016

Officials from Michigan from the Department of Environmental Quality have already resigned over the crisis, and activists have the Governor in mind next.

Obama Drops The Hammer And Vetoes Republican Bill That Kills Clean Water Rules

 

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In the aftermath of the poisoning of the children of Flint, Michigan, President Obama has vetoed a Republican bill that would have killed the EPA’s new clean water rules.

In his veto message, President Obama said:

I am returning herewith without my approval S.J. Res. 22, a resolution that would nullify a rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army to clarify the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act. The rule, which is a product of extensive public involvement and years of work, is critical to our efforts to protect the Nation’s waters and keep them clean; is responsive to calls for rulemaking from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders; and is consistent with decisions of the United States Supreme Court.

We must protect the waters that are vital for the health of our communities and the success of our businesses, agriculture, and energy development. As I have noted before, too many of our waters have been left vulnerable. Pollution from upstream sources ends up in the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and coastal waters near which most Americans live and on which they depend for their drinking water, recreation, and economic development. Clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act helps to protect these resources and safeguard public health. Because this resolution seeks to block the progress represented by this rule and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water, I cannot support it. I am therefore vetoing this resolution.

Republicans were outraged because the EPA passed a new rule that would have given the federal government regulatory authority over small bodies of water and wetlands. Access to clean and safe water could be a big issue in the 2016 election after hundreds of children were poisoned by a Republican administration in Michigan.

President Obama has been there for the people of Flint, and he is standing tall for the basic right of access to clean water. In 2016, the American people should not have to rely on their president to protect their access to water, but such is the state of the Republican Party. Clean water is a matter of public health.

By dropping the veto hammer, President Obama has once again stopped the Republican agenda dead in its tracks.

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President Obama prepares to clean up the republican mess in Flint Michigan

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LANSING President Barack Obama on Saturday declared a federal emergency in Flint, freeing  up to $5 million in federal aid to  immediately assist with the public health crisis, but he denied Gov. Rick Snyder’s request for a disaster declaration.

A disaster declaration would have made larger amounts of federal funding available more quickly to help Flint residents whose drinking water is contaminated with lead. But under federal law, only natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods are eligible for disaster declarations, federal and state officials said. The lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water is a manmade catastrophe.

presdident-obamaThe president’s actions authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate responses and cover 75% of the costs for much-needed water, filters, filter cartridges and other items for residents, capped initially at $5 million.  The president also offered assistance in finding other available federal assistance, a news release Saturday from the White House said.

Snyder, who on Thursday night asked Obama for federal financial aid in the crisis through declarations of both a federal emergency and a federal disaster, said in a news release Saturday he appreciates Obama granting the emergency request “and supporting Flint during this critical situation.”

“I have pledged to use all state resources possible to help heal Flint, and these additional resources will greatly assist in efforts under way to ensure every resident has access to clean water resources,” he said.

“I welcome the president’s quick action in support of the people of Flint after months of inaction by the governor,” Kildee said.  “The residents and children of Flint deserve every resource available to make sure that they have safe water and are able to recover from this terrible manmade disaster created by the state.”

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On Friday, Kildee led a bipartisan effort in support of the request for federal assistance. Kildee had long called for  Snyder to request federal aid.

Typically, federal aid for an emergency is capped at $5 million, though the president can commit more if he goes through Congress.

Snyder’s application said as much as $55 million is needed in the near term to repair damaged lead service lines and as much as $41 million to pay for several months of water distribution and providing residents with testing, water filters and cartridges.

In what’s become a huge government scandal, garnering headlines across the country and around the world, Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city temporarily switched its supply source in 2014 from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to more corrosive and polluted Flint River water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant.

The switch was made as a cost-cutting move while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The state Department of Environmental Quality has acknowledged a mistake in failing to require the addition of needed corrosion-control chemicals to the water. That caused lead, which causes brain damage and other health problems in children, to leach into the water from pipes and fixtures.

Resident complaints about the taste, odor and appearance of the water, which began immediately after the switch, were largely ignored by state officials. The state also dismissed reports of elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint children from pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha before for the first time publicly acknowledging a problem in October 2015.

Snyder declared a state of emergency Jan. 5 and mobilized the National Guard Jan. 12 but has been widely and strongly criticized for not moving more quickly.

State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said federal assistance makes him “more confident … Flint families will begin receiving the help they deserve.”

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“We need to remain committed and ensure the state fully accepts responsibility in this crisis and does everything they can to correct the long-term impact on our community,” Ananich said in a news release Saturday.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in a news release Saturday she appreciates “the president’s quick action in responding to the urgent needs of families in Flint.”

“I will continue to push for federal resources to address this crisis, and for a commitment of resources from the state to meet the immediate needs of the community and to set aside a future fund  to address the long-term needs of children and families,” Stabenow said.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, also welcomed the announcement and said he will work to support further federal support for Flint residents. However, “the State of Michigan and Gov. Snyder must step up and provide the necessary resources to deal with the long-term effect of water contamination,” Peters said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, praised Obama for moving “with unprecedented speed to respond, within 36 hours of receiving the request.”

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.

 

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All Flint’s children must be treated as exposed to lead

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In order to address the public health crisis in Flint, every Flint child under 6 years of age — 8,657 children, based on an analysis of Census data — should be considered exposed to lead.

The direction came earlier this week from the doctor who forced the state to acknowledge Flint’s lead problem and the state itself.

The exposure began in April 2014 after the city switched from using Detroit’s water system, which pumps water out of Lake Huron, to its own treatment plant, which drew water from the Flint River.

In recommendations to the state on Monday, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha said all kids under the age of 6 should be treated with some kind of prevention actions.

Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive, said Monday that all children who drank the city’s water since April 2014 have been exposed to lead. “It is important when we think about a public health perspective that we consider the whole cohort … exposed to the drinking water, especially 6 years and under since April 2014,  as exposed, regardless of what their blood level is on Jan. 11.”

The state’s most recent report, based on  tests conducted between October and December 2015, shows that 43 people — only a small portion of the number exposed — had elevated blood lead levels. That’s because these tests measure only the amount of lead in a person’s blood, which decreases after about 30 days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means testing done today does not represent past exposure. Once lead is present in the bloodstream, it is distributed throughout the body, primarily to bones, teeth and soft tissue. Lead accumulates in the body over time. Blood-lead tests used to identify recent or ongoing exposure to lead, do not measure the overall lead burden in the body.

There is no safe level of lead in the body, but the impacts of lead are considered most severe on the developing brains and nervous systems of children and fetuses. And even the 8,657 Flint children younger than 6 exposed to lead may be a low estimate; It doesn’t include unborn children whose mothers drank tainted water during their pregnancies, or children and pregnant women who reside outside Flint but were exposed while visiting relatives, childcare centers or hospitals inside city limits.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify the health experts recommend that all of Flint’s children be treated as though they have been exposed to lead. 

Using the app? Tap here to see a map of the number of Flint children less than six years of age by block group.

Source: Environmental Systems Research Institute, 2015 population estimates.

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