End Mass Criminalization of Black and Brown Youth

End Racism and Discrimination

Tuesday, 05 January 2016 00:00

Apology, resignations over Flint are good first steps

Written by Nancy Kaffer | Detroit Free Press

In the quiet week between Christmas and New Year's Day, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality chief Dan Wyant resigned, followed quickly by department spokesman Brad Wurfel.

And Gov. Rick Snyder — finally — apologized for what happened in Flint.

For 18 months, Flint residents were exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water, after the city — while under state oversight and with MDEQ approval — began to draw its drinking water from the Flint River. Since the switch, an increasing percentage of Flint kids have elevated blood-lead levels. Lead poisoning causes irreversible behavioral and developmental difficulties.

So this apology, and these resignations, represent a sea change. But it's not enough.

For months, Snyder and his MDEQ attempted to dodge the reality that state policy wrought in the City of Flint. As reports, based not only on data compiled or gathered by outside researchers and journalists but on the state's own information, began to explain what was happening, Snyder's spokespeople and MDEQ officials worked to deflect, discredit and deny.

Last week's flurry of belated mea culpas came on the heels of a report by the state's Auditor General that seems to confirm the state — not local government officials — made the decision to draw the city's drinking water from the Flint River, a report from a Snyder-appointed task force assigned to postmortem the events of the last two years, and a crescendo of national media reports on the Flint water crisis.

These official reports are beginning to show what journalists and activists have long known or suspected: The chain of responsibility for Flint's decision to pull drinking water from the river, and for the local treatment plant's decision — made with MDEQ approval — not to add chemicals that prevent lead in old pipes from leaching into the water leads to the state.

But there's more to come, including the task force's full report, due early this year.

The unfolding story of how the city came to expose its 95,000 residents to lead-contaminated water shows a state government muddled by inertia, focused on compliance with the technical requirements of the law, at the expense of nearly everything else: common sense, empathy, native curiosity.

The task force's report found the MDEQ had a derisive attitude toward outside researchers and reporters whose work showed that something was amiss in Flint, calling the tone of public statements unacceptable. E-mails obtained by Virginia Tech University researcher Marc Edwards under the Freedom of Information Act show the same kind of dismissive derision, and other, more questionable decisions — like an e-mail from an MDEQ official to a Flint water worker expressing hopes that the next round of samples would include sufficient low-lead selections.

The task force called MDEQ's approach to regulation of drinking water "minimalist," and focused on "technical compliance" rather than true safety. Members were disappointed, as late as Dec. 16, to hear Wyant defend MDEQ's decision to sign off on Flint's water treatment plans.

An analysis by a state Department of Community Health epidemiologist, performed last July, showed a higher number of Flint kids with elevated blood-lead levels, according to documents obtained by Edwards. Based on those e-mails Edwards obtained, that report doesn't appear to have made it out of DCH; both the health department and MDEQ continued to insist, wrongly, that the state's data showed that any spike in blood-lead levels was seasonal. In fact, researchers seem to have started with the premise that there was nothing to be concerned about in Flint's water, and worked to prove that it was so.

But there's one DCH e-mail I can't stop thinking about.

"I’m just saying sensitivity to the local people who are so concerned about the babies there based on what they have for data is a context that is important, beyond the high profile and other issues," Brenda Fink, director of the state Department of Health and and Human Services Division of Family and Community Health, wrote to other DCH employees back in September. "There’s a people side to this issue that sometimes gets lost when something becomes so politicized."

Fink was right. That's the part that none of us should forget.

Flint Water Advisory Task Force letter to Gov. Rick Snyder

Link to original article from Detroit Free Press

Read 5897 times

Latest Economic and Social Justice News

  • 1

Willie Nelson - Keeping the Postal Service Alive

Latest News

  • How One Dying Man Changed The Debate About The Tax Bill +

    How One Dying Man Changed The Debate About The Tax Bill What mattered was that he showed up — that he put himself in front of the people whose opinions on Read More
  • Democrats Just Won a Major Victory in Virginia +

    Democrats Just Won a Major Victory in Virginia On a night of Democratic victories, one of the most significant wins came in Virginia, where the party held onto Read More
  • Repealing the Jim Crow law that keeps 1.5 million Floridians from voting. +

    Repealing the Jim Crow law that keeps 1.5 million Floridians from voting. A seismic political battle that could send shockwaves all the way to the White House was launched last week in Read More
  • Nuclear Weapons: Who Pays, Who Profits? +

    Nuclear Weapons: Who Pays, Who Profits? In an interview with Reuters conducted a month after he took office, Donald Trump asserted that the U.S. had “fallen Read More
  • Sessions issues sweeping new criminal charging policy +

    Sessions issues sweeping new criminal charging policy Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the sweeping criminal charging policy of former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. and directed Read More
  • Veterans Arrive at Standing Rock to Act as 'Human Shields' for Water Protectors +

    Veterans Arrive at Standing Rock to Act as 'Human Shields' for Water Protectors As tensions grow in North Dakota, with multiple eviction orders facing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their battle against Read More
  • Bush’s Iraq Lies, Uncontested, Will Haunt Us Under Trump +

    Bush’s Iraq Lies, Uncontested, Will Haunt Us Under Trump The CODEPINK Tribunal taking place December 1 and 2, and live streamed by The Real News, is a historic collection of testimonies about the lies Read More
  • Michigan Fights To Avoid Delivering Water To Flint Residents +

    Michigan Fights To Avoid Delivering Water To Flint Residents The ongoing crisis has left the city without safe drinking water for over two years, but the state claims water Read More
  • The System IS Rigged!—The Electoral College and the 2016 Election +

    The System IS Rigged!—The Electoral College and the 2016 Election Donald Trump was right: the system is rigged! But it is rigged for the Republicans, not the Democrats, for conservatives, Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Economic and Social Justice Calls

  • 5-4-2016 Economic and Social Justice Call
    The team explores the concept, economic theories and realities of achieving Full Employment in the current economy. Guests include Conor Williams, the secretary of the Transitional Jobs Collaborative in Milwaukee and Michael Darner, Executive Director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
  • 02-03-2016 Economic & Social Justice
    Listen to this month's call led by Jim Carpenter as we discuss the state of our current economy, the impact of poor economic choices, and the other factors that play into the declining situation around the country, and in the world in this open and guided conversation.
  • 01-06-2016 Economic & Social Justice
    PDAction Board Member Donald Whitehead, and former Ex. Dir. of the Coalition for the Homeless leads the discussion on homelessness, with input from Joel Segal, PDAmerica founding member and National Director of the Justice Action Mobilization Network. Special focus is given to the housing crisis, the role of the banks, programs used by other countries to alleviate the problem, as well as the fact that women are the most adversely affected by this issue. H Con Res 98 - Resolve to Eliminate Homelessness - has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12) and is endorsed on this call.