Michigan Governor Blames 'Government' For Flint's Poison Water. Um?
It's not even the rust that'll get you, though
Several developments on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, so pour yourself a nice hot cup of coffee and let's look at what's up now. Unless you live in Flint, in which case you need to pour that shit right down the drain and drink some nice safe Canadian whiskey.
EPA Gonna Fix Everything, Starts By Canning EPA Official
After Michigan officials spent much of 2015 proclaiming Flint water the kindest, moistest, most wonderful lead-free water it had ever had the privilege of testing -- and dismissing warnings by physicians and water experts that the stuff was poisoning children -- the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it would take over water quality monitoring in Flint:
“EPA has determined that the City of Flint’s and the State of Michigan’s responses to the drinking water crisis in Flint have been inadequate to protect the public health and that these failures continue,” the order reads.
The EPA will take over testing Flint's tap water for lead and posting the results online, and will oversee the management of Flint's drinking water system, including bringing in "'nationally recognized experts' on safe water treatment, sampling and distribution." So they'll have top men working on it. Who, exactly? Top men.
As a demonstration that it was really serious this time, the EPA also graciously accepted the resignation of its own regional administrator Susan Hedman, who had been responsible for the Flint area, since she hadn't taken more forceful action to make the state and city water officials treat Flint River water to stop corrosion of the city's pipes, which is where the lead was coming from. But she's out now, to be replaced by those top men. And women, of course.
Governor's Emails Show State Cared A Lot About Publicity And Maybe Water Too
[contextly_sidebar id="AIXBU3FiMa4wqIsp8xBy5StrTbkDOYRf"]Following his State of the State address Wednesday, in which he said he was really sorry about all the poison water that's likely to have lifelong effects on all of Flint's children -- but he SAID he was sorry! -- Gov. Rick Snyder released 274 pages of emails related to Flint, in the name of openness and transparency. You should not be terribly worried at all by this, the very first document in the email trove:
There were a lot of important points they wanted to emphasize, but those black highlighter pens don't copy very well. Even the unredacted stuff includes some real gems, like a July 26, 2015, message from Snyder's chief of staff, the Dickensian-named Dennis Muchmore, who fretted that while lead was a real problem, there were far too many people in the "anti everything group" who want to blame the state, when obviously the City of Flint was at fault. Never mind that the decision not to add anti-corrosion treatments to the water was a state decision, and Flint was operating under a series of Snyder-appointed emergency managers:
Muchmore also forwarded along an email from a Department of Community Health employee who dismissed a local pediatrician's findings of elevated lead levels in Flint children with scare-quotes around the word "data," suggesting that her study (which turned out to be key in calling attention to the crisis) was probably just using bad methodology:
That's some pretty impressive "Don't worry, nothing to see here" language, isn't it? After the state accused Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of spreading "hysteria" and doing crappy research, state regulators checked their numbers again and decided, whoops she was right. Last week, she was appointed to head a public health initiative aimed at helping Flint residents exposed to lead.
Snyder Takes Responsibility For His Stupid Experts' Screwups
On MSNBC's Morning Joe Friday, Snyder assured us all that the buck stops on his desk, but that before it got there, a whole lot of other people had really made a mess all over that buck. So everyone down the line screwed up, but gosh, he sure is taking responsibility for those idiots he appointed to run things, those big dummies. Asked when he first became aware of the lead contamination in Flint, Snyder explained that his people had really let him down:
We actually had outside experts raising the questions that people in two of our departments didn't see the issue. They actually came back and said "We don't agree with them, we believe we're okay with respect to lead," and when it first came to light that their conclusions were inaccurate, that was actually September 28th and October first ... and we took action on October second, in terms of starting to say "Don't drink the water and here are some filters."
[contextly_sidebar id="ikXPqPkauaHIalhqCzIsvhY97ZKUfV6x"]Mind you, it took Snyder another three months to get around to actually declaring an emergency in Flint, but he was right on top of things, you bet. Just quietly, until the national media started making noise and the federal government happened to start investigating. Ultimately, though, it turns out that the real problem is government itself, never mind that he appointed the heads of the departments that dismissed the outside researchers' warnings and insisted the water in Flint was perfectly fine, because there were a bunch of bumblers under them:
Let me put it in perspective: The department people, the heads, were not being given the right information by the quote-unquote experts. And I use that word with great trial and tribulation because they were considered experts in terms of their background, these are career civil servants that had strong science, medical backgrounds in terms of their research. But as a practical matter, when you look at it today and you look at their conclusions, I wouldn’t call them experts anymore.
Snyder went on to explain that the culture of regulatory agencies needed an adjustment:
This is something that we don’t consider just what one person did, let’s look at the entire cultural background of how people have been operating. Let’s get in there and rebuild the culture that understands common sense has to be part of it, taking care of our citizens has to be part of it, that's paramount importance when you're talking about the safety of our citizens.
[contextly_sidebar id="BskG7PpyXJ4lxaOIexP3gBECUCMTuUc0"]Not that we'd ever have to worry about the culture of government in an administration that touts the wisdom of the free market and limited government, and where the governor's top aide frets that the "anti everything group" is going to make trouble for Republicans, and where state regulators deliberately fiddled with testing data to avoid EPA involvement. Still, at the very least, it's awfully nice to hear a Republican governor say that listening to scientists is a good thing. We won't hold our breath waiting for that to become a trend.
Finally, Snyder denied that the fact that Flint is a majority black city had anything to do with his government's inaction; replying to a New York Times piece asking whether the response would have been so delayed if "Flint were rich and mostly white," Snyder seemed personally hurt by the very question:
Absolutely not. Flint is a place I’ve been devoted to helping … we’ve done a lot in terms of programs there to help the structurally unemployed go get work, in terms of public safety we’ve done a lot.
So there. He'd have been every bit as slow to respond to undrinkable lead-laced water in Grosse Pointe, and it's all the bureaucrats' fault. Sure, we believe that. Now, if only Barack Obama would stop politicizing Flint's water crisis to gin up black votes.
Illegal Immigrants Are Takin' Our Lead!
One final "Jesus, people suck" aspect of the Flint Water story. Despite the efforts to get drinkable, healthy water and filters to people in Flint, an estimated 1,000 undocumented immigrants in Flint are staying away from water distribution centers and avoiding opportunities to pick up free tap water filtration systems because they're afraid of being deported.
Local station WJRT reports that many didn't even know that there was a problem with Flint's water, other than the discoloration. One woman interviewed by the station, identified only as "Lucia," said, "I got close to see what they were giving out, and it was water. And the first thing they asked me for was my license." Many undocumented immigrants are unwilling to open the door to church groups distributing water and filters, much less police or National Guard members, because of fear of La Migra. And so their kids will continue to drink leaded water, leading to a lifetime of brain damage.
We're looking forward to the inevitable Donald Trump announcement taking credit for this great development.