Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Water towers in America usually boast the names of the communities they serve, often with a mascot or slogan; totems of civic pride. Not in Flint Michigan. This one merely proclaims: FLINT WATER PLANT. And this one stands for betrayal, mismanagement corruption and scandal.

Flint Michigan, U.S.A., is a town of 100,000 human beings located about 70 miles from the shores of the largest group of fresh water bodies in the world: the Great Lakes. 
Yet its residents can't get clean water from their home faucets.

What is the dollar value of knowingly using poisoned water on innocent victims? 

In Flint Michigan, the answer is zero.

Nearly two years ago, the State of Michigan decided to save money by switching Flint's water supply from Lake Huron (which they were paying the city of Detroit for), to the Flint River, a notorious polluted tributary known to locals for its filth.

The pollutants in the Flint River, a result of decades of unchecked chemical dumping by General Motors and other companies, have made the river water highly toxic.

In 2011, Flint was declared to be in a financial state of emergency, and the State took budgetary control. Therefore, all the decisions made during the water crisis were at the State level, which State officials confirmed, not by the City Council or the Mayor.
The switch was made during this financial emergency in April 2014 after Darnell Earley, an unelected emergency manager appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, switched Flint’s water source to the long-polluted and corrosive Flint River in a bid to save money.  

It was supposed to be temporary while a new State run supply line to Lake Huron was to be constructed for connection. The project was estimated to take about two years.

Soon after the switch, the water started to look, smell and taste funny. Residents said it often looked dirty and brown in color.
But what residents couldn't see was far worse. About half of the service lines to homes in Flint are made of lead and because the water wasn't properly treated, lead  and iron began leaching into the water supply.

Instead of immediately addressing the problem, the Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley paid the Veolia Corp. $40,000 to conduct a study which recommended reducing other unsafe pollutants with chemicals and using filters. 

Incredibly, this Veolia Corp. study through incompetence, or possibly deliberate reasons, failed to address the lead pipe corrosion issue by completely ignoring it. 

Bob Bowcock, an associate of environmental activist Erin Brockovich, after studying the situation for no charge, recommended the obvious: reconnect to Detroit until the new project is finished.

Nothing was done.

This has been the status quo for nearly two years, and until September 2015, City and State officials told worried residents that everything was fine. Former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling even drank it on local TV to make the point.
No one believed State and local officials when they said that this disgusting looking brown water was safe.
The Flint River is highly corrosive: 19 times more so than the Lake Huron supply, according to researchers from Virginia Tech.

The Flint River is highly corrosive: 19 times more so than the Lake Huron supply, according to researchers from Virginia Tech.

According to a class-action lawsuit, the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) wasn't treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent, in violation of Federal law. Therefore, the water was eroding the iron water mains, turning water brown.
In August 2015, it took an independent effort by community activists, aided by University of Virginia professor and water safety specialist Marc Edwards, pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, and Michigan ACLU investigative journalist Curt Guyette, to expose both the toxic lead levels in the water, and the lead poisoning already impacting the children of Flint Michigan.
This group of researchers from Virginia Tech came up to Flint and did in home testing and found elevated levels of lead in the drinking water and made those findings public. 

State officials insisted their own research was more accurate and attempted tp discredit the above independent study.
The Town residents did not trust the public officials and finally realized that their water supply was poisoned and the State had been lying to them in a cover-up about the truth.

Residents are now part of the above class-action lawsuit that alleges not only lead poisoning but several medical conditions resulting from contaminated water after the switch. 

Despite enormous outrage from residents, officials repeatedly insisted that the water was safe to drink. 

The crisis only came to national attention in mid-December 2015, after Mayor Karen Weaver issued an official declaration of a state of emergency over the city's drinking water. In the statement, she called the situation a "man-made disaster" and the damage irreversible. 

Further Testing has found that the drinking water is extremely contaminated with lead, which can cause serious brain damage, especially in children.

Ten people there have also now died from Legionnaire's disease, a form of pneumonia likely linked to bacteria in the city’s water. Lead levels perilously above federal limits have put 100,000 people lives at risk.

Who's to blame?
A state appointed task force found that fault lies with the State, and on December 29, 2015, the Director of DEP,  Dan Wyant resigned because of the situation.

Former emergency manager Darnell Earley (who now has been appointed by Gov. Snyder as the emergency manager of Detroit's Public schools) says he's not to blame for the decision to use the Flint River as the city's source of drinking water.

Earley, who served as Flint's emergency manager from September 2013 until January 2015, said in an email to The Flint Journal-MLive on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015 that the water source decision was made months before he was appointed to run the city by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Earley said he had no reason at the time to second guess what appeared to have been a consensus decision.
"The decision to separate from (the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) and go with the Karegnondi Water Authority, including the decision to pump Flint River water in the interim, were both a part of a long-term plan that was approved by Flint's mayor, and confirmed by a City Council vote of 7-1 in March of 2013, a full seven months before I began my term as emergency manager," Earley's email says.
Although the Flint City Council voted in March 2013 in support of moving to the KWA pipeline, a new pipeline that would serve the region with Lake Huron water, there is no record that the council voted to use the Flint River as a short-term drinking water source.
Earley, who toasted the switch to the river with city leaders in a ceremony in April 2014, said it was his "responsibility to implement the previously accepted and approved plan" since the city's contract with the Detroit water system expired during his term as emergency manager.
"It did not fall to me to second guess or to invalidate the actions that were taken prior to my appointment," his statement says.
While Earley oversaw the switch, the decision to switch was signed by Flint's previous State appointed emergency manager, Ed Kurtz.
Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said in a statement on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015 that the decision to use the Flint River "was pushed or supported by the city and community" and said the city had no choice but to find another source of water after the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) terminated Flint's contract to continue purchasing water under the terms of its expired contract.
Former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling has responded that the vote to become a partner in the KWA, a new regional water authority, should not be confused with a vote to use the Flint River as a temporary source of drinking water, a vote that never happened according to him.
In contrast to using the river, the city also could have negotiated a short-term contract to continue buying water from DWSD, for example.
"No resolution was ever brought before myself or the City Council by any emergency manager to use the Flint River as the temporary source," Walling said.
Kurtz signed an order March 29, 2013, for Flint to eventually purchase water from the KWA pipeline after it was finished, but that order says nothing about the city's use of the river.
So in following the bouncing ball of the blame "game" between Republicans and Democrats who were involved, it is clear that no-one is willing to take accountability for poisoning the people of Flint, and that there never was anything done that remotely involved what was in the best interests of the citizens of Flint Michigan.
Yet, after nearly two years of living with poisonous water and astonishing government negligence, Flint residents still pay between $100 and $200 a month for their water bills.
Amazingly, to add insult to literal injury, the city has started to send overdue payment notices that threaten to cut off water service. 

Six months before Michigan’s governor declared a state of emergency over high lead levels in the water in Flint, his top aide wrote in an email that worried residents were “basically getting blown off by us.”
“I’m frustrated by the water issue in Flint,” Dennis Muchmore, then chief of staff to Gov. Rick Snyder, wrote in the email to a top health department staffer obtained by NBC News.
“I really don’t think people are getting the benefit of the doubt. Now they are concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving,” Muchmore said.
Why those DEQ officials took the actions they did is a question at the center of a tragedy that has left an unknown number of children and other Flint residents poisoned by lead, has led to a federal lawsuit and calls for a U.S. Justice Department investigation. 
Lead levels in Flint’s drinking water would have spurred action months sooner if the results of city testing that wrapped up in June 2015 had not been revised by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to wrongly indicate the water was safe to drink, e-mails show.
The records obtained by the Michigan ACLU and by Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech researcher who helped raise concerns about Flint’s water show how State officials first appear to have encouraged the City of Flint to find water samples with low lead levels and later told Flint officials to disqualify two samples with high readings. The move changed the overall lead level results to acceptable from unacceptable.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality manipulated the samples tested for lead to eliminate the samples with the highest concentration and thereby produce the result that it wanted: The appearance that the water was safe. 
Even using the Flint River water, the City of Flint could have prevented the corrosion of its copper and lead pipes relatively inexpensively:
Marc Edwards,  the professor from Virginia Tech who has been testing Flint water, says treatment could have corrected much of the problem early on,for as little as $100 a day, but officials didn’t take action because "they considered the cost of $100 per day as too expensive".
“There is no question that if the city had followed the minimum requirements under federal law that none of this would have happened,” said Edwards, who obtained the Muchmore email through a Michigan Freedom of Information Act request.
 As discussed above, this leaching could have been prevented by adding anti-corrosive chemicals to the water at a cost of roughly $100 per day and experts say 90% of the problems with Flint's water would have been avoided. Now, the corrosion of the lead pipes has destroyed the entire infrastructure. 
One hundred dollars a day would equal a mere $36,500 a year, a pittance in a budget of millions. To save $36,500 a year or maybe a little more, the city failed to treat the Flint River water, leaving it corrosive and able to leach lead and copper from the aging pipes used to transport it.
"When the governor appointed an emergency financial manager (in 2011), that person came here  to simply do one thing and one thing only, and that's cut the budget, at any cost," said Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee.
Kildee said the water crisis is indicative of an attitude about industrial towns such as Flint that have seen hard times in the past 30 years. They're often just forgotten, he said.
"This case shows that you can't treat cities the way you treat some Corporation that you might just sort of sell off," Kildee said.
Lead poisoning is irreversible. Pediatricians  fear the Flint children who tested with elevated levels will suffer lifelong consequences.
"If you were to put something in a population to keep them down for generation and generations to come, it would be lead,"  Dr. Hanna-Attisha said. "It's a well-known, potent neurotoxin. There's tons of evidence on what lead does to a child, and it is one of the most damning things that you can do to a population. It drops your IQ, it affects your behavior, it's been linked to criminality, it has multigenerational impacts. There is no safe level of lead in a child."
On January 5, 2016, three months after high lead levels were detected in Flint children, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency over the issue.

He then apologized for the State's actions, but residents and officials remain furious because the State had previously strongly denied the problem existed for months and failed to use anti-corrosive treatment on the river water, which might have reduced the iron. 

Too little, too late from the Governor, as the facts are that the State government officials knew that the water supply was poisoning the people of Flint, did nothing to fix the problem, instead adopting a policy of  knowingly lying to hide the truth of their actions, and did not admit they caused it until this scandal was exposed to the public.  

The U.S. Attorney in Michigan and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are also investigating why the state chose to ignore federal law and go without the anti-corrosive agent, as the lawsuit contends

Dayne Walling, the former mayor who so confidently went on TV and drank Flint River water to try to quell the early protests, lost his recent re-election bid in a campaign centered around the issue.
"In retrospect, I regret all of it," Walling said this weekend.
"All the way back to seeing the city move to a different drinking water source. You can't put a dollar amount of the devastation to our community, our kids, and it was completely avoidable."
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder ran for re-election and won as a numbers man.
"I'm an accountant. I've found I can help more people when the numbers add up," he explained in a political ad.
Not easy in a State still dealing with the collapse of the auto industry.
Flint was one of nine Michigan cities put under the control of State appointed emergency managers whose job it was to cut pay and cut services to make those numbers add up. 

And Flint's emergency managers found that switching the city's water system to a cheaper toxic source would save $5 million over two years.
Mind boggling, but it worked. The State of Michigan expects to show a budget surplus this year of $575 million. 

Which is good, because the cost of saving that $5 million in Flint will be very expensive.

It's already cost $6 million to switch the water back, plus fixing the damaged pipes could increase the total expenses to $1.5 billion. 

And according to one doctor, those thousands of children with lead poisoning: "These children will be injured for life."
There are many people who were involved in these decisions, others who are part of the cover-ups of the real situation by deliberately falsifying information, all are sworn to be doing their jobs of protecting the citizens they supposedly serve.

They should be arrested for their criminal acts.

There is a petition being circulated to have those public officials responsible for this tragedy to be held accountable, and if found guilty by a Federal investigation, sent to jail for what they have done.
But I know that won't happen, no-one will go to jail.
State officials were just doing their jobs, making sure the numbers add up. 
And jail time is too expensive.