A city in Michigan is about to get a visit from FEMA, money from the Feds and government assistance due to poor decisions made by … their government.
Today, the White House announced that President Obama had signed a declaration of a state of emergency in Flint, Michigan in order to “lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Genesee County.”
Flint has been plagued by unhealthy water ever since city leadership decided to change the city’s drinking water source from Lake Huron to the more local Flint River in the spring of 2014.
The move was made in an attempt to save money. At that time, the city had been placed in the hands of a state-appointed manager to deal with Flint’s financial woes.
With today’s Presidential proclamation, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be coordinating efforts in the area.
How did Flint’s water get so bad as to need FEMA?
- City government chose corrosive Flint River as water source to save money
- State government failed to treat the water with anti-corrosives
- Corrosive water started eating iron and lead pipes in the water system
The problem started with the decision to change water sources. The Flint River contains high amounts of iron and had been measured 19 times more corrosive than the Lake Huron supply Flint had been using. The corrosiveness of the water was confirmed when in October of 2014, a GM plant quit using Flint water because it was causing excessive corrosion of machinery and manufactured parts.
In November of 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed that included accusations that the State had failed to treat the water with anti-corrosive agents and then lied about it.
Stephen Busch (“Busch”) was at all relevant times District Supervisor assigned to the Lansing District Office of the MDEQ. Busch is individually liable because as District Office Supervisor of MDEQ he deliberately created, increased and prolonged the hazards by falsely reporting that anti-corrosive agents had been used to treat the highly corrosive Flint River water thereby enhancing the threats and dangers that arose by replacing of safe drinking washing and bathing water with a highly toxic alternative.
The anti-corrosives would have cost about $100/day to add to the water treatment process. Failing to add them meant that the water from the Flint River then began to eat the iron and lead water pipes in the city’s drinking water system which leached those metals into the drinking water. It was discovered by a physician who noted signs of lead poisoning in children and looked into Medicare records to find something even more shocking.
[Dr. Mona] Hanna-Attisha, an animated and passionate young pediatrician with horn-rimmed glasses who everyone calls Dr. Mona, realized there was a way to determine whether the water was affecting kids. Medicare requires states to keep records of blood lead levels in toddlers. The comparison was astonishing. Lead levels doubled and even tripled in some cases.
After the evidence from Dr. Hanna-Attisha, the class-action lawsuit and public outcry, the city switched its water source back to Lake Huron, but the damage was done.
Even with properly treated water flowing in, Virginia Tech researchers still detected lead levels — albeit lower ones — in water in Flint homes.
The state is now handing out filters and bottled water.
What is FEMA going to do in Flint, Michigan
The president signed a declaration of state of emergency activating FEMA to take over and coordinate emergency activities in the Flint area, but what can FEMA do now that Flint has already switched its water supply back?
The White House statement released today said that the agency would “provide water, water filters, water filter cartridges, water test kits, and other necessary related items for a period of no more than 90 days.”
That’s exactly what the state of Michigan had been doing prior to the declaration – but now taxpayers from the rest of the country get to chip in to fix the problems created by Michigan’s leadership.
Surely the EPA was aware of this travesty…
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s top Midwest official said her department knew as early as April  about the lack of corrosion controls in Flint’s water supply — a situation that likely put residents at risk for lead contamination — but said her hands were tied in bringing the information to the public.
Former president Ronald Reagan captured it best:
“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”