Flint water

Here we are at the one-year anniversary of the declaration of emergency in Flint, and we’re in the midst of an all-out tug-of-war between the state of Michigan and federal judge David Lawson.

Twice now, Judge Lawson has ordered the state to deliver bottled water to certain Flint residents.

But the state continues to fight that order.

When the Flint water disaster exploded, the state began sending emergency supplies to the city: millions and millions of dollars worth of bottled water, filters and cartridges.

Detroit Free Press reporter Paul Egan's front-page story this week suggests the state overpaid for those supplies, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Egan found that instead of using a formal bidding process, the State went directly to Georgia-based Home Depot to buy the supplies. And it failed to seriously seek bids from  Michigan companies.

 

The federal government offered help with Flint’s Legionella outbreak, and the state of Michigan turned the offer down.

That’s what MLive reporter Ron Fonger has learned from Environmental Protection Agency documents released through the Freedom of Information Act.

 


  

It has been a year now since Michigan and the world learned that the lead levels of children living in areas of Flint has doubled, even tripled.

It was September 2015 when pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha braved the scorn of certain state employees to present her stunning research findings that proved that elevated lead levels in Flint children correlated to the the switch to Flint River water.

  

As we know by now, the dismissive state officials were wrong, and Hanna-Attisha was right.

Retired Brigadier General Michael McDaniel was appointed to lead the effort to get lead water pipes out of Flint. 

That was back in February. 

Here we are, seven months later, and McDaniel has yet to be paid one thin dime for his work.

Defending Governor Snyder from Flint-related lawsuits and investigations could cost taxpayers up to $3.4 million. But a state lawmaker says public money shouldn't be used to defend him.

Snyder is extending contracts with two private legal firms who've been representing him. He notified the State Administrative Board on Tuesday: 

One of the most vivid images of the Flint water crisis was the photograph of the then-two-year-old Sincere Smith. His little face, covered with a rash, was the cover of Time Magazine.

His mother insisted the rash broke out when the water changed to the Flint River, and that it got better once the family moved out of Flint.

The state of Michigan and the federal government have spent the past six months trying to figure out why so many people in Flint, like Sincere, have reported rashes and hair loss.

That report came out today.

Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody joined Stateside to discuss its findings.

Remember all that smelly, brownish-orange water that was coming out of people’s taps in Flint?

That was Flint’s water system – the actual pipes – corroding and breaking down, at a rate 15 times faster than they normally would have, says Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards. 

There are several potential sources of lead in your home plumbing that can get into your drinking water.

  • The service line connecting the water main to your house could be made out of lead
  • The solder in your plumbing could have lead in it
  • And older brass faucets and valves can contain lead

So how do you figure out what you have in your house?

This question has been nagging at me for some time. At our house, we drink the water straight from the tap.

 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette faces complex legal hurdles in civil lawsuits against a water company and an engineering company, along with their parent companies.

 

The lawsuit claims that Veolia North America of Delaware and Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam of Texas failed to take proper steps in the Flint water crisis and created a public nuisance. The suit aims to collect money for damages.

 

But legal experts say there are a number of issues that could stand in the way of a potential win for the attorney general in trial or in a settlement.

Michael Poole doesn’t buy the line that filtered tap water is safe for him and his neighbors to drink.

“There may be a day when I might be able to trust” the water, he says. “But until then, I’m getting this right here.”

After months of wrangling, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is reluctantly agreeing to hook the city up to the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline for the city's drinking water.

Emergency managers made the decision to switch Flint’s drinking water to the KWA pipeline as a way to save money. Flint's city council gave its stamp of approval as well. But Flint’s new elected leaders wanted out of the deal because of the cost.

It’s been almost six months since the Flint Water Task Force blamed the culture of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the Flint water crisis.

The Task Force said a culture of quote “technical compliance” exists inside the drinking water office.

Its report found that officials were buried in technical rules – thinking less about why the rules existed. In this case, making sure Flint’s water was safe to drink.

Flint’s water is still not safe to drink without a filter.

A lot of people have been asking whether the water is safe for bathing. Federal and state agencies say it is.

The U.S. Justice Department, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton have asked Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to shut down its internal investigations into the Flint water crisis.

They say those internal administrative investigations may have damaged their criminal investigations. 

Listen here to Wayne State University Law Professor Peter Henning explain why officials are concerned:

Henning helped us figure out what exactly is going on here.

He said the complaints suggest that during the civil investigation of the crisis, employees of state departments were told they could be fired if they didn’t answer questions.

“What that does under law – and this is under the U.S. Constitution, the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination – what it does is it gives them immunity,” Henning said. “It means that their statements can’t be used against them, nor may any information developed out of that statement be used against them.”

This could impact criminal investigations, Henning said. It would make it difficult for criminal investigators to act on the information, should it fall into their hands.

“So it could substantially compromise the criminal investigations,” Henning said.

Don't do this: learning from the Flint water crisis

May 24, 2016

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder promoted his business skills when first running for office, but those skills are now being questioned as the Flint water crisis continues to be a government nightmare. Grand Valley State University is taking the opportunity to learn from the mistakes made by the Snyder administration.

Marie McKendall is a business professor at GVSU who will be using the Flint water crisis as a case study in her business ethics class this fall.

“It’s horrible that it happened, but it’s a wonderful case study,” McKendall said on Stateside. “There are structural problems, there are cultural problems, there are social problems and psychological problems. … It’s a far richer case than a lot of the ones we have used before.”

In the course, McKendall wants to make it clear that there isn’t a “villain” to hunt down, but that government incompetence did make the situation worse.

“I think they completely lost sight of the fact that there were people who were being affected by the decisions they were making," she said.

Studies suggest even low levels of lead exposure can hurt a fetus’ development in the womb.

And for months now, the state health department has been looking into whether the Flint water crisis caused problems with pregnancies.  

Meanwhile, researchers at Hurley Medical Center are investigating whether the lead in the water increased the number of miscarriages.

But it turns out that trying to track miscarriages is really tough.

Emails recently released by Gov. Rick Snyder's office indicated that Michigan State Police were aware that a Copper City man made a potentially threatening Facebook post against Snyder over the Flint water crisis. 

The Flint Journal reports that a state police senior intelligence analyst alerted commanders about the post. The man who wrote the post was on probation after being involved in a 12-hour armed standoff with police.

A common practice by operators of municipal drinking water systems is getting more scrutiny.

Last week the first criminal charges were filed in connection with the water crisis in Flint.

One of the charges caught my attention, because it includes a practice that’s the norm in Michigan cities.

Two years ago today, the city of Flint switched its drinking water source from the Detroit River to the Flint River ​– water we now know was not treated with corrosion control chemicals. Water that went on to corrode pipes and cause lead to leach into people's drinking water.

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