Ethics Questions And Answers Regarding The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis

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First, a background question: What is the Flint water crisis?

Here is what has happened so far:

1. In March of 2013, the Flint City Council voted to leave the Detroit water system and join a new pipeline project that would deliver water to the city from Lake Huron. The state agreed that it was a good idea, since it would save the financially strapped Flint 19 million dollars over 8 years. [ Addendum: The news media and progressive spin is that the cruel state unilaterally imposed this decision on Flint. That’s not true, and don’t trust any source that claims it is. Here’s one such hack, who states “In 2013, the Emergency Manager for Flint, Ed Kurtz, signed the order that Flint would stop relying upon Detroit for water and, instead, switch to a the Karegnondi Water Authority run out of Lake Huron.” The Flint City Council voted 7-1 to take this course prior to the sign-off. It was approved by Kurtz, but this blogger’s statement that the crisis “is a direct result of reckless cost-cutting by the unelected bureaucrat who Governor Snyder appointed to run the city under the state’s controversial “Emergency Financial Manager” law” is deceptive and false.]

2. Detroit retaliated by announcing that it would cut off Flint’s water supply. Since the new pipeline wouldn’t be ready for three years, Flint had to find a temporary supplier of its water needs. It then spent millions upgrading its water processing plant.

3. The months leading up to the Detroit shut-off deadline generated many meetings with the state and regulatory bodies. Mayor Dayne Walling, a Democrat, announced that the temporary supply would come from the Flint River. The plan for the switch was implement by state-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Early. The system went into operation in April of 2014.

4. Immediately, residents started complaining about the water’s taste and appearance. Early (the state) and Mayor Walling (the city) insisted that it was safe to drink. Four months later, there was a fecal content alert, meaning that the water wasn’t being sufficiently purified. In October of 2014, General Motors said that the water seemed to be corrosive, and it would no longer use it in its plant.

5.  In January of 2015, Flint told its residents that the water wasn’t safe because of chemical contamination that could cause serious health problems. Detroit offered to go back to the old arrangement. Flint declined. Erin Brockovich (yes, that Erin Brockovich)  publicly argued that there was a water safety  crisis in Flint. The Mayor asked the state for assistance, and was assured that they were “working on it.”

6.  Activists said that the water was dangerous and the city should go back to its old arrangement with Detroit. The city hired an expert who claimed the water was safe. More work was done to fix the problem, but the City Council voted to re-connect to the Detroit system, and Lake Huron water. However, the vote had to be approved by the State’s emergency manager for the city. He didn’t approve it. The advocates for going back to Detroit water sued in Federal court, and lost.

7.  This mess  dragged into last fall. In September of 2015, researchers from Virginia Tech University reported online that their testing of Flint’s water found it “very corrosive” and that it was “causing lead contamination in homes.”  “On a scientific basis, Flint River water leaches more lead from plumbing than does Detroit water,” the report concluded. “This is creating a public health threat in some Flint homes that have lead pipe or lead solder.” The very same day, Michigan told Flint that the earlier chemical contamination had fallen within acceptable levels due to improved treatment methods, and the water was officially compliant with all standards, and safe.

8. Later that month, however, testing showed frightening levels of lead in the blood of Flint infants and children. A new lead warning was sent to Flint residents.

9. In October, 2015, the County issued a warning that Flint’s water was dangerous, and asked the Governor to declare a State of Emergency. The next day, Governor Rick Snyder announced various measures to address the problem.

10. Again, the city, this time through a special advisory committee, recommended that Flint switch back to the Detroit supply. On October 8, Snyder announced a multi-million dollar plan to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water.  A week later, the Michigan Legislature and Snyder approved  $9.4 million in aid to Flint, including $6 million to  switch its drinking water back to Detroit.

11. Thanks to the water problem, Walling was defeated in his race to be re-elected as mayor  by Karen Weaver. The switch didn’t stop the lead problem, because the corrosive water had prompted a deterioration in Flint’s lead pipes. It took a the entire holiday period for this to become sufficiently obvious, for some reason, as many residents drank lead-contaminated water they had been told was now safe.

12. Shortly after Christmas, Snyder fired Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant and apologized for what was happening in Flint. He declared a state of emergency.

13. On January 13, Governor Snyder activated the Michigan National Guard to  distribute bottled water and filters in Flint, and asked the federal government for assistance.  The same day, Michigan health officials reported an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases during periods over the past two years in Flint and the surrounding county. Snyder requested a major disaster declaration from President Obama, and more federal aid. Obama signed an emergency declaration last week, ordering federal aid for Flint and authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate relief efforts.

Why doesn’t everybody know about this? Continue reading