People in Lead-Poisoned Flint Still without clean Water

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer | ( | – –

Important Reminder in the Flint Crisis: People Still Have No Safe Water

Emergency declared by governor, but there is no city- or state-run distribution of water.

“[P]eople knew from the beginning, as soon as the switch was made in April of ’14, that the water was bad,” said Curt Guyette, investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan. (Photo: Steve Johnson/flickr/cc)

The lead contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan is receiving increased national attention—yet what the people of the Rust Belt city urgently need to receive is clean drinking water.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder on Thursday offered a second apology for the crisis, saying it’s an “unfortunate situation.” That problem, which began as the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, has left 200 children below the age of six with confirmed elevated blood lead levels, spurred calls for Snyder’s ouster, and prompted filmmaker Michael Moore to say the governor has to go to jail, as he “effectively poisoned, not just some, but apparently ALL of the children in my hometown of Flint, Michigan.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said Thursday that it would cost as much as $1.5 billion to fix the city’s drinking water infrastructure. Researchers at Virginia Tech have said that the problem—caused when Flint moved its water supply from the Detroit system to the Flint River without the proper corrosive controls—could have been fixed with as little as $100 a day.

Curt Guyette, investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, told Democracy Now! on Friday that the switch, made in a supposed money-saving move, came with dangerous yet completely predictable results.

People knew from the beginning, as soon as the switch was made in April of ’14, that the water was bad. It looked bad. It tasted bad. It smelled bad. And there was all sorts of problems throughout 2014. In 2015, one of the residents, LeeAnne Walters, had her water tested by the city, and the lead levels came back at over 100 parts per billion. Of course, there’s no safe levels of lead whatsoever. The federal action level is 15 parts per billion.

While the water was switched back to Detroit ‘s system in the fall, “the water is not safe in Flint,” MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow pointed out Thursday.

“The city is in need of FEMA-like if not FEMA response,” she said.

Despite Snyder’s declaration of an emergency and increased attention on the crisis, people in Flint are forced to rely on donations—which, in some places at least, are running dry; and may not have water filters—some of which are being distributed by people sentenced to community service.

And Stephainie Gosk, NBC News correspondent, told Maddow that there is no city- or state-run distribution of water.

Also this week, newly released emails have implicated some of Snyder’s top staffers. As Common Dreams reported Thursday:

Internal emails showed that his high-level staffers were aware of lead poisoning in Flint’s public water supply six months before the administration declared a state of emergency.

According to the newly-released emails, which were obtained by NBC News, Snyder’s chief of staff at the time, Dennis Muchmore, wrote to an unnamed high-level health department staffer: “I’m frustrated by the water issue in Flint.”

“These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us (as a state we’re just not sympathizing with their plight),” Muchmore wrote in the email, according to journalists Stephanie Gosk, Kevin Monahan, Tim Sandler and Hannah Rappleye.

“I really don’t think people are getting the benefit of the doubt,” wrote Muchmore. “Now they are concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving.”

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

AJ+: “Lead In The Water In Flint, Michigan”

9 Responses

  1. I am very, very surprised that no lawyer has filed a MASSIVE class action personal injury lawsuit against the state of Michigan.

    The state is clearly guilty and the lawyer would probably easily be able to use discovery to get copies of every state document and might even be able to have a receiver appointed to take possession of all the state property (like the governors mansion, the legislative building, etc.) to ensure the state would pay the resulting claim. The receiver would be needed because there is no way to force the legislature to actually pay any claim when the state loses because judges are reluctant to lock legislatures into a warehouse until they pass legislation to fund payments (legal, but drastic).

    Over the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see if any law suits get filed and how the legislature panics.

    • I am a member of the Michigan Bar and was a state resident when the PBB cattle contamination scandal occurred in the 1970s in rural Michigan. The plaintiffs lost those product liability lawsuits and it was EPA Superfund monies that paid for the clean-up at the site where the contaminated cattle were buried in St. Louis, Michigan. Contaminated dairy and meat products due to accidental mixing of PBB with cattle feed resulted in thousands of Michigan consumers ingesting toxin-laded food.

      Years of Republican-controlled legislatures in this state have resulted in the Michigan Tort Reform Act and broad scope of governmental immunity legislation that significantly limits the rights of injured parties to sue for just about anything – especially against the state and its political subdivisions.

      Any plaintiffs’ legal counsel suing the state will find themselves facing a phalanx of attorneys from the Michigan Department of Attorney General who will vigorously assert immunity defenses.

      Flint, Michigan is rife with abandoned buildings, high crime and unemployment rates – much like the City of Detroit. It was the subject of the $150,000.00 budget “Roger and Me” documentary hit that made filmmaker Michael Moore a household name in the late 1980s by his exposing the effects of General Motors shutting down of a plant in that municipality.

    • According to some Internet sources I just checked – Governor Snyder and various state and local officials were sued by some Flint residents in November over the contaminated water.

      The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan has commenced their own investigation.

      There has been almost NO recent Michigan coverage of the matter in the media – although the discoloration and health problems linked to the water were reported by the Detroit Free Press about a year ago.

    • The suit would get nowhere. Michigan governmental agencies and employees are immune from liability for negligence.

  2. I live in California and I’m getting lots of news about this on the internet and TV. I went online to look at how the Michigan press is covering this . The Detroit Free Press had nothing on their website. Neither did the Ann Arbor News. Is this being talked about around the state?

  3. This is what happens when you put a bean-counter in charge who can see nothing other than the (alleged, short-term) dollars saved. I suspect that this savings was in turn mandated by the elimination of the single-business tax.

  4. Contrast this story with all the hoopla surrounding the toxic mine spill on the Animas River in SW Colorado.

    In that instance the river turned bright orange. Since it was so photogenic the mass media showed up.

    Yet no children were harmed. No damage to water systems. No fish were even killed.

    In Flint we have a legitimate catastrophe with thousands poisoned resulting in very possible lifetime problems. If not death.

    Yet very little media coverage.


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