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Michigan Truth Squad

A project of
the Center for Michigan.

Who approved switch to Flint River? State’s answers draw fouls


Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder apologized to the people of Flint in his State of the State address Tuesday, but there are still questions about how much of the public health crisis the state is accepting responsibility for. In recent weeks, state officials and a state appointee have made comments or released background information that appear to deflect blame from the state at a critical juncture of the crisis. Just who made the disastrous decision to switch Flint’s water supply from the Detroit water system to the highly corrosive Flint River? State officials imply one culprit, but documents suggest another. (Truth Squad will likely look at more public comments about the Flint water crisis in the future.)

Who: Gov. Rick Snyder
What: Flint water crisis timeline
The call: Foul

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder apologized to the people of Flint and laid out a series of actions to address the Flint lead poisoning crisis in his annual State of the State address Tuesday night. He also offered a timeline for how the crisis unfolded – an abbreviated version in his speech, and a detailed version sent to reporters during the speech.

Snyder’s speech can be viewed in its entirety here. Snyder’s detailed timeline can be seen here.

Statements under review

“City of Flint decides to use the Flint River as a water source”

In his speech, which also touched on the chronology of events, Snyder noted a key development – a Flint City Council vote in March 2013 to switch water service from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, to the Karegnondi Water Authority, a regional water authority that was in the process of building a pipeline from Lake Huron. Snyder told the statewide audience that this action is where “the crisis began.”

The crisis timeline distributed to reporters and now available online states that in June 2013, “City of Flint decides to use the Flint River as a water source,” a phrasing similar to what the governor used in his State of the State speech, (“Flint began to use water from the Flint River as an interim source”) suggesting that the city, not the state, drove the interim decision to use the highly corrosive river water for city residents.

Here’s the problem with that: City officials did not make the decision to take water from the Flint River. There was never such a vote by the city council, which really didn’t have the power to make such a decision anyway, because the city was then under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.

The council’s vote in March 2013 was to switch water supply from Detroit to a new pipeline through the Karegnondi Water Authority – but the pipeline wasn’t scheduled to be completed for at least three years. (And even that decision was given final approval not by the council, but by then-state Treasurer Andy Dillon, according to Snyder emails released Wednesday.)

Snyder also said that Detroit, after being informed of the Flint council vote, sent a “letter of termination” of water service. Actually, Detroit sent a letter giving Flint one year on its existing contract, but that didn’t mean Flint couldn’t get water from Detroit after that date. In fact, there was a flurry of negotiations between Detroit and Flint to sign a new contract that would carry Flint through until it could connect to the under-construction pipeline. That new contract was going to cost Flint more money.

This distinction is important to note because merely stating that Flint received a “letter of termination” makes it sound as if a thirsty Flint had no choice but to stick a straw in the Flint River. Flint could have elected then to sign a new contract with the the Detroit water system (indeed, Flint eventually reconnected to Detroit water after the situation in the city became a full-fledged, hair-on-fire crisis). Flint was disconnected from Detroit because it was cheaper to take water from the Flint River until the new pipeline was completed. Here’s a letter from then-emergency manager Darnell Earley saying Flint was choosing to use Flint water instead of Detroit water.

Which brings us to the state’s timeline statement: “June 2013: City of Flint decides to use the Flint River as a water source.”

Flint officials, under state emergency management, didn’t make that decision. State-appointed emergency manager Ed Kurtz made that decision. Here’s the document from June 2013 signed by Kurtz authorizing an engineering contract to figure out how to draw water from the river.

The call: Foul

It may seem like this is deep in the weeds, but this is why it’s important: This is a major health crisis for the state, and it’s a crisis that is man-made. There’s no doubt that a series of actions all played a role in the elevated lead levels in the bloodstreams of some Flint children. When the governor’s own timeline says the “City of Flint decides to use the Flint River,” it can’t be dismissed as shorthand for the truth. The wording conflates an earlier city vote to transition from Detroit to the KWA with the later decision by a Snyder-appointed emergency manager to use the Flint River as an interim source of water. Truth Squad calls a foul.

Former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, left, and Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville

Former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, left, and Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville

Who: State Rep. Al Pscholka and former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley
What: Statements about who’s to blame for the Flint water crisis
The call: Foul

Statements under review

“This was a local decision to take themselves off the Detroit system and join this pipeline, and that’s what started this whole series of events.”

Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, was asked Monday about using the state’s projected half-billion-dollar budget surplus to help fix Flint’s damaged water infrastructure. He’s an important person to ask, because he’s chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Pscholka, quoted on the WKZO-AM website, said he had reservations about using the surplus for Flint. That’s a fair policy debate. But the reason Pscholka landed in Truth Squad was the justification he offered for his decision. According to the article:

He (Pscholka) says the state shares only some of the blame for the water woes, because “this was a local decision to take themselves off the Detroit system and join this pipeline, and that’s what started this whole series of events.”

Pscholka is using a line of argument also espoused by Darnell Earley, the former state-appointed emergency manager of Flint, who was in charge of the city of 100,000 for part of the time the crisis was unfolding. Earley recently penned a guest column in The Detroit News, in which the former emergency manager said he is blameless. Earley’s column provides us another…

Statement under review

“It is critically important that the record be set straight about the decision-making and approval processes that led to Flint joining the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) with the use of Flint River water as the interim water supply. The fact is, the river has served and been used as the back-up supply for decades, and this was the rationale given to me by staff and (then-Flint) Mayor Walling, who also serves as chairperson of the KWA board. Contrary to reports in the media and rhetoric being espoused by individuals, the decision (to use Flint River water) was made at the local level, by local civic leaders.”

Pscholka and Earley reference one segment of the public record chronology of the crisis, while leaving out parts that show the state (and Earley) were neck-deep in the decision-making.

Indeed, in March 2013, while under a state-appointed emergency manager, the Flint City Council voted 7-1 to stop buying water from Detroit and switch to a new pipeline that took water from Lake Huron by joining the KWA. But the Flint City Council never specifically voted to start taking water from the Flint River in the interim.

That decision was made later, as a result of Detroit raising the rates it would charge as Flint unhooked from the Detroit water supply and connected to the new KWA pipeline – which wasn’t going to be completed until sometime in 2016.

The Flint City Council, which had no real authority anyway because the city was being run by a state-appointed emergency manager, did not vote yes or no on connecting to the Flint River. That decision was made by emergency manager Ed Kurtz, Earley’s predecessor, who hired an engineering firm to study taking water from the Flint River and subsequent emergency manager Earley, who sent a letter to Detroit water officials informing them of Flint’s intention to use Flint River water once the Detroit contract expired.

Yet another state agent, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, signed the April 2014 permit allowing the city’s drinking water to be drawn from the Flint River.

Perhaps the definitive chronology of the decisions that ultimately led to Flint children drinking contaminated water was published in December by Michigan Radio, whose reporting also suggests state officials tried to conflate the city’s decision to switch to the KWA water system with the state’s decision to use Flint River water until the KWA was up and running.

The call: Foul

As in many statements considered by the Truth Squad, there is just enough truth here to mislead. It’s true that city officials voted in 2013 to switch to a new water supply when the KWA pipeline was completed in 2016. But more relevant is the documented evidence that the decision to use Flint River water in the interim was made by state-appointed emergency managers, not democratically elected city officials. To cite the initial council vote without mentioning the state’s role in switching to Flint River water is a transparent attempt to deflect blame – and possible financial responsibility – for a man-made tragedy.

Earley and Pscholka’s remarks also minimize the indisputable (and more damaging) role that state officials played in failing to properly treat Flint River water, and in failing (along with the feds) to quickly alert the public to rising lead levels.

156 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Mike Belzer

    This is a great summary, but too polite. The Governor and his Administration — including the Emergency Manager — are lying to deflect responsibility, and continuing to hide the facts by heavily redacting the limited information released. It is more than insulting when the Governor tries actively to blame the victims in Flint. Everyone who has been paying attention and following this situation has known for a very long time — not since September of last year — that Flint’s drinking water system was being poisoned. Many of us did not know that damage was caused by corrosive water, but anyone who is sentient in this state should know that the Flint River has been an industrial sewer for generations.

    1. John Grant

      The Republicons don’t want to pay for the mess they’ve made. It doesn’t fit their narrative that the African-American population is shiftless and stupid, and along with the Dems have ruined the cities. The party of racism relishes dictatorial powers (the EM) because government (democracy) is the problem, not the solution. No one from the Republic Party will say “This is why we have regulations!” After more than two decades of gutting the DEQ (once the nationally respected Michigan EPA), the Repubs have failed to learn why we have regulations, preferring to maintain our polluted rivers and poisoned air. The figures the party are talking about — $30 million — is a drop in the Flint River bucket. The Republicans are going to force the damaged of Flint to go to court, and I’d guess the cost will be more than a billion for the MI taxpayer. Snyder couldn’t get the Teabag Lickers to raise money for the roads; so how will he get them to raise money for the Neeegraas. The Lickers still have their pointy white caps and gowns at home in the closet. And we will all end up paying for their ignorance, arrogance and incompetence.

      1. tom

        It is the MONEY!

      2. Len Selle

        It’s funny that the blame that is being placed solei on Republicans by all the mouth breathers on here, when in actuality there were just as many Democrats involved as Republicans. You can’t tell me that the city council, the mayor, the EM, the DEQ, the water department, the EPA, and the state gov’t didn’t all have a part in this thing. As far as not treating the water, the water dept, DEQ, and the EPA all dropped the ball, hid the test results, and the leaders of all three of those entities resigned within days of their incompetence being exposed. All Democrats by the way. Coincidence? Not a chance. They were hoping the problems would eventually work themselves out, and it just didn’t happen, because they didn’t know their job, which would have consisted of treating the water with the anti-corrosive chemicals. and if you want to hang this on Snyder because he is in charge of the DEQ, that’s fine. But you’ll then have put the same responsibility on Obama, as he is in charge of the EPA. You can’t have it both ways. That is the truth, and you can dance around all your little excuse list for the next 10 years, but you’ll never be able to change the truth of what happened……..

    2. Duane

      If you only want to place political blame [which seems the main activity in Lansing and the media] then this article was done well.

      If you want to prevent this type of event from happening again then the appropriate questions aren’t being asked. What criteria was used for making the decisions? why was the actual change over handle as it was? what considerations were made for unintended consequences? what was the knowledge and skills of those making the change over, etc.?

      I wonder if any such considerations are being made during the recovery efforts.

      We know what government requires of private employers, but do we have confidence the government will require this of themselves?

      1. Calvin

        Duane, you don’t get that the political questions are key to prevent this from happening again.

        “What criteria was used for making the decisions? why was the actual change over handle as it was? what considerations were made for unintended consequences? what was the knowledge and skills of those making the change over, etc.?”

        The criteria for making the decisions was the application of a political ideology.
        Why was the actual change over handled as it was: Because the ideology is based on cost not on the responsibility of government. In fact the ideology doesn’t believe in government.
        What considerations were made for unintended consequences: None because considerations for unintended consequences are prevented because the ideology is believed to be infallible.
        What was the knowledge and skills of those making the change over, etc.?
        The decision was made on cost only. Questions about efficacy, potential problems were never a consideration because the ideology is based on small, limited government..

        I could go on. The point is that this whole event came about because the people elected a Legislature, Governor and other state wide officials who belong to a political party controlled by an ideology that denigrates government.

        The problem you should contemplate is: What gets into people to vote for people to run the government who are hostile to government.

        People should know if the people for whom they voted understand that government must be strong enough to fulfill it’s obligations.

        If you are repelled by answers that address politics you should know that in a “self-governing” nation the people must make informed political decisions. This problem came about because the wrong people were elected to public office.

        1. Duane


          The party controlling the process has one goal/ideology, spend other people’s money and use that to claim more power.

          If there was any strategy in Flint or Lansing is was to get other people to pay for a replacement of the whole Flint water system up to an including the water treatment. It is obvious that they have no actual concern about how anything other then personal power and spending.

          The obvious test is whether they have asked the questions about what the causes were to creating this event. I offer a proven approach developed by experience professional that have been focused on impact of such events and how to prevent them or similar ones happening again. It is a very small pebble into the political swamp for people to think about how to assess the commitment of politicians and government agencies to helping residents succeed.

          The muddier the waters in the political swamp the easier it is for politicians to claim their greatness, the agencies to hide from accountability in the weeds, and the media to draw attention to themselves by making all kinds of racket by slapping the muddy waters.

          I can change the political swamp if I don’t try to make some ripples. If one person reads and pauses to consider then they may toss in their small pebble. My pebble is offering a reference point of what really works in such situations so people have means to judge for themselves.

          If anyone believes that this situation would have been handled differently with a different established Party then I have a fathom bridge over Rivière du Détroit to for the residents to pay for.

          The reality is that spending money for fair value is what frugality is about. Squeezing money from one pocket to another is simply politics. This was all about a competition between those politicians of Flint and the ones of Detroit to see who would blink, neither did so they didn’t know what to do nor how to do. They didn’t even know who to ask for advice. Why would anyone ask the EPA, we saw what they did in Colorado. They still don’t know who to ask because now they are getting more of other people’s money to spend than they ever imagined.

          It isn’t about anyone organization believes itself as infallible it is they have never been taught nor experience actually doing something and be accountable.

          I won’t denigrate government because that would be based on them knowing/experiencing what it take to do things and be accountable. As best I can tell government agencies are about controlling those people who do things and how they do them rather than about results or impact. If you have never been in the swamp with the alligators nipping at your…and trying to remember that you were there to drain the swamp then you have no clue about delivering results. I have met many involved and caring government people and politicians. They are at best sheltered from reality and are intellectually crippled in dealing with it.

          People vote the way their frustration/wants lead them and based on a lack of knowledge of how to assess how that can be addressed. A good example, the politicians and the media whine about campaign spending but they make no effort to help people understand how to judge what is said or what has been done. If you want to change the voting then let’s set up an index of competency for the different offices we elect people to hold, then we will add weighting factors, and give the public access to the candidates so the voters can score the index for each candidate.

          The question isn’t the capabilities of the voters, it is about informed voters.

          I do believe in government, a system of best practices to provide for the desired results, performance based rules/regulations. But only the ones being regulated or having to work and live by those rules know how to make them work. You ask any 100 politicians or government agencies and they would know the difference or even more importantly to them is how to enforce/fine others.

          True strength comes out of capabilities and competency not out of force. Have you every had a regulator visit you working and openly admit that they are there to learn in guise of enforcement?

          Politics is everything involving the interactions of people, the governmental politics is a culture unto itself and needs to be approach that way. What we should be trying to do influence, modify, change that culture. I know some will claim it can’t be done, well it has been done in the free market place without any government authority and actions.

          More than you expect to hear, or I suspect what you expected to hear. And I think the pages of Bridge could be an good place for people to talk about how to change what we are frustrated with.

          1. Duane


            There are two ways to look at it the Emergency Manager concept is flawed or the implementation/selection was flawed.

            In such out of control [financial] situations there needs to be a disruptive way to change the path of events. Unless there is an alternative the Emergency Manager approach seems the most viable.
            As for the implementation/selection there seems to have been a critical flaw in this case. The guidance provided the Manager was incomplete and possibly the criteria for the selection was also lacking. If the only criteria used in either case was financial that shows a lack of appreciation of function and services of the city. It may also have influenced who was selected even who was doing the selection. The narrower the expectations the more likely the anticipated will create problems. As an example a CFO of an electronics company that is only focused on the reporting of numbers and lacks the understanding of the whole of the business will only weigh the dollars and ignore the source and that may cause providing advice that keeps the company profitable in the short run but fails to keep it profitable for long-terms.

            The reality is that the Emergrency manager doesn’t work, it is the polilitcs over practice that set these events on the path to final problems.

            Without knowing the details of the source, since there are claims it is the pipes [the same one that were there before the change over], and the River that should have been marked by several groups long ago as toxic this situation could have been anticipated and prevent or it could have been quickly mitigated simply by asking some water system developer, builders, equipment manufactures for their view on how the transition could be handle. I can assure you that given the size and potential contracts if properly framed the City of Flint people would have had sufficient information to make a much better decision within a week it they would have asked.

            The other part is I don’t know what the exposure level is but there are established time weighted average of exposure to most chemicals, including lead. There are many experts or knowledgeable people, industrial hygienists, toxicologists, medical professionals, etc.

            The is politics and the purpose of politicians [get more of other people’s money to spend] and not the understanding of everyday problems especially those that have a technical factor. Our scheme of selection of politicians is based on not having more knowledgeable people in/running for office, they are less likely to be influenced by emotion and more focused on results. Even the voters have come to like that because they feel more competent in appealing with emotion than describing results.

            Simply put, the voters get what they want, they hear what they are listening for, they see what they are looking for. Uninformed stay uninformed because they then can use their emotion to choose and not have to use facts. It happens in local elections and you can see it on the Presidential stage whether Trump or President Obama. Both have their following based on emotion and the words use to play to that emotion.

            This is only my perspective so I would really like to hear any questions or challenges of my thinking so I have to stop and reconsider what I have said.

          2. Matt G

            For some reason I can’t reply to Duane’s comment below, so I’m putting this here.

            Duane, while you’re right about other chemicals having time-weighted exposure tolerances, the acceptable level of exposure to lead is zero. The body does not rid itself of lead and other heavy metals the way it does with other substances.

            Also, this whole commentary about government’s goal being to acquire and spend people’s money is nonsense IMO. This is what the previous poster meant when they said “ideology”. The goals of government are the goals we the people allow our representatives to have through voting and other public action.

            With regard to the federal dollars now being given to Flint being called by you “other people’s money”, that’s only true if on average Michigan takes more from federal coffers than it pays. It’s all fungible. Your point of view also assumes that as a nation we shouldn’t help other states pay for things they need (like infrastructure that is lead free).

            As for the free market comments relating to the EM policy, the market in that situation was about to let the city of Flint go bankrupt. The problem with that being the same types of problems they are now experiencing. It’s much better just to face the fact that it’s highly desirable to have clean public water systems everywhere. It’s also highly unfair to let a free market handle water infrastructure. The poor don’t have the ability to pay for bottled water, filters, etc, even without a city water bill.

            Young children have no choice when it comes to the wealth of their parents, and it’s a tragedy of the highest order for children to be exposed to lead. When we consider the damage both lead exposure and chronic stress from poverty do to the brains of young people, honest reflection forces us to reject the possibility of meritocracy. How can we claim markets are free if kids grow up with a damaged ability to make rational choices in those markets?

      2. N

        Duane, I’ve been saying this for some time. What is it that the people want? Blame or questions answered that lead to results that include this not happening again, etc. Even some of the Flint citizens seem to be shortsighted, wanting little real information that requires investigation beyond what they heard or think. You may have seen that the University of Michigan-Flint is offering courses on this crisis. Perhaps the students will be able to take that information and become leaders in Flint that are well-read, people who know the importance of research, etc. before making decisions or evening organizing for change/correction of decisions made.

        1. Duane


          I agree.

          We are taught to be shortsighted. We are taught to look to trust others and dependent on others and not to question [that is a form of accountability].

          I suspect even the UofM course will not teach students how to recognize, analyze [finding the root causes], and developing how they can impact the system so they and others aren’t put at such risk. I doubt the school will involve anyone with a working knowledge of risk management.

          The blame game is the easiest game to play, the easiest game to become a player in, and it is the easiest game to get paid for enabling.

          1. Toni

            You guys are having a fine discussion on uninformed voters, but your are overlooking one thing. The voters voted out the idea of an emergency manager anywhere in Michigan. Then the Michigan government steamrolled the voters by putting the law back in place with $$ appropriations to prevent the voters from foiling them again. Then Flint’s emergency manager decided on the Flint River water. The local government was powerless. Just reminding you that the voters were informed enough to know that the emergency manager law was a terrible idea.

        2. Cass

          Your question should not be a hard one to answer. The people want Both. They want solutions , they want answers, and yes they want who is responsible.They want the truth, they want respect. They don’t want to be treated as less then the Human beings they are! Blame? Well if some one baby sat one of your kids and poisoned them would you not want them held accountable or would you be wrong to expect they would be? But that is seen as pointing fingers and some kind of blame game? People want this to never happen again, so right leave the criminal out there so it can happen again. That makes sense? This was not some mistake , you cannot believe for one minute some how some way so many professionals could ALL be so incompetent in their jobs. Not possible!! It would seem to me you don’t under stand the depth of hurt that has happened here! You do not take seriously the poisoning of a City.No one should be held accountable for this? Let some one poison one of your children and then look at you and say oh I am sorry. Ops. I suppose you are just going to let it go and say oh its ok no big deal but how can I help you never do this again , forget my child right now, lets focus on helping you!! The people want JUSTICE that’s right and if that is seen as pointing fingers well that’s sad!! What do they want>> You have to ask????

      3. Duane

        Matt G.

        Are you saying once it enters the system it never leaves? That sounds like once a child eats lead paint that they will be poisoned for life, that once a worker ingests lead they will be unable to perform as before I surely could be wrong, but it seems OSHA still uses a TWA for lead. It seems CDC has a threshold blood level for lead that is above zero.

        I wish there was a toxicologist that could help us understand how the body processes lead.

        You may not recall that for decades gasoline used in cars/trucks had an antiknock inhibitor, tetra ethyl lead, I would even go so far as say many of us had a greater ingestion of lead than those in the Flint event. That causes me to wonder how much healthier I could be. I wonder how many of us grew up in homes where the piping was installed using lead solder and we haven’t been diagnosed with lead poisoning [not showing lead poisoning, chronic/acute, symptoms?

        I surely done believe people, especially children, should be exposed to lead. By the same token I want people to put the risk in proper perspective. I surely don’t what parents to believe their children are permanently damage and will not be able to have a long and successful life because of an above zero level of lead in the water.

      4. C.P. Schwartz

        OK here’s the real deal. It does not matter where the source water comes from. It is not drinkable until it is treated and monitored before being released for distribution and use by the public. When Detroit was supplying water this was their responsibility. When Flint began supplying its own water the treatment and monitoring belonged with Flint—period. When brown stinky water is coming out of your tap you and your neighbors ought to be sitting on the mayors or the EM’s front porch. Flint, man up!

        1. Ben

          So the emergency manager whose decision led to this crisis (as this article clarified) was appointed and only accountable to the governor. So by your logic, isn’t that what the Flint residents are supposed to be doing? Placing the blame on the people responsible?

      5. tom

        Michigan EPA [Fed.GOV EPA] ; takes money from the junk dumpers into any river,lake IF they PAY! the people be Dame !

  2. Chuck Fellows

    Cowardice and deceit are two qualities being demonstrated by the current political ideology in Lansing. Leadership has made it known, repeatedly, to all line and staff public employees their primary missions are to reduce the size of government , cut cost at every opportunity and reduce the autonomy of local units of government. Failure to follow the party line will cost you your job and your reputation.
    Children will pay the price for the rest of their lives.
    Meanwhile politicians, energized by cowardice and deceit, will continue to assert that they know better than anyone else, that they must be held harmless to continue their narrow minded ideological pursuits.
    Isn’t this the pattern of behavior in dictatorial forms of governance? Isn’t this the kind of behavior that destroys civil societies?

  3. Bernadette

    Not surprising. I have been following this issue for the past year and it is the same pattern of behavior shown over and over again. When people are left out of the decision making process in a democracy, there is nothing left to do but protest.

    Over the past several months, it has become evident that the Snyder Administration does not have the competency or skillset to run a state. Governor Snyder may have a lot of good qualities, but his strictly political appointments, and the arrogance of the current legislature are taking this state down a road of steep decline. When you look at where Michigan measures up with other states, most polls indicate Michigan is at the bottom of the pack. Whether it is education, health, or quality of life. We have several major crises going on right now, but state government is not able to manage them all at once. WE NEED A LEADER!!

    I just hope Michiganders are paying attention to this slippery slope Michigan is on, and recognize what this is going to cost the residents of this state.

  4. publi

    I have to agree with Mile Belzer – quit splitting hairs and being nice and call they out

    The Gov. Appointed Emergency Manager (a questionable law anyway) has killed and disabled an entire CITY of People!

    The Treasurer made these decisions and they are intentionally and with forethought trying to deflect from their actions (to make it look like the City Council made the relevent decisions).

    That the Governor acts have damaged, indeed probably disabled for life CHILDREN, the most vulnerable, possibly for a lifetime (as even the Romans knew Lead did terrible damage to Humans and made men “Mad”) is just plain criminal. We lock people away for much much less. Why is it different for the Gov.?

    I do not know How they can sleep, to save a few bucks they hurt KIDS!

    I am sure they would be spouting a different story if their Kids drank and bathed in poisoned lead laced water.

    I HOPE a very special place exists for them, as making the situation is one thing — NOT RINGING THE FIRE BELL WHEN THEY KNEW THE WATER HAD LEAD IN IT is unforgivable.

    1. PaulS

      If “even the Romans knew about the dangers of lead in plumbing”, (which they didn’t, as the health effects weren’t discovered for years after), why were lead pipes allowed until at least 1976?

      News flash: all water is corrosive, some more corrosive than other, depending on the acidic or alkaline source. By federal mandate, ALL water MUST be treated to restore the pH to acceptable levels prior to flowing through pipes to users, to prevent just such a catastrophe, as it’s generally assumed that there are lead pipes or lead solder in the lines. While I understand that is not popular to absolve the governor of the blame, he’s not the one that failed to follow the rules. Whoever decided to pump the water without treating it first is the responsible party, and deserves anything they get.

  5. Jim H

    Darnell Earley: “The fact is, the river has served and been used as the back-up supply for decades, and this was the rationale given to me by staff and (then-Flint) Mayor Walling, who also serves as chairperson of the KWA board.”

    This does suggest the decision to use the Flint River was made with decent intentions: eg. use the Flint River temporarily until the new water line was competed. Apparently this had been done in the past, so why would anyone think to question it, especially if the water department people are OK with the decision. Any executive relies on advice from the people in the municipal departments who are supposed to have expertise in the subject matter. My question is aren’t there ongoing tests required by DEQ to evaluate drinking water? And if so, did those tests miss what was going on?

    1. Diana

      Your comments make me wonder if there are any other communities in Michigan that are exposed to bad drinking water. Who are we to believe?

      1. PaulS

        Read on, there is at least one website that has a list of places where the lead levels are worse than Flint (this isn’t a system wide issue, either; 3 out of 4 tests showed normal levels of lead, less that federally accepted levels for potable water).

    2. Bruce Smith

      I drank Flint River Water (not as clean as now) during the late 50’s and the 60s. So it certainly seemed worth consideration to use it temporarily to save substantial money. The question in my mind is why the water plant didn’t provide the additive to minimize the leaching? Did they provide it in the past? I hope they are on top of the requirements for clean water because the same people will be treating the raw water from Huron in a few months.

      1. Robert Powers

        I don’t think any amount of additional chemicals would have fixed water from the Flint river. If all that was required was to add some chemicals to the water the governor would not have spent money money to re-connect to Detroit water.

        1. Robert Honeyman

          If I understand correctly, the solution for the lead and iron problems is/was a chemical additive. The lead comes from lead piping serving many older buildings. However, the water still needs to be sanitized, not something that is doable on the fly. But when the entire process is controlled by an appointed czar, it’s nearly impossible to manage all parties’ interests. In this case, the driver for the appointed city manager was to fix the budget crisis caused by the decline of Flint into extreme poverty.

          This is just a cluster-f*.

          1. Duane

            This is a situation normal all fouled up [SNAFU coined to describe government controlled situations].

            Politicians want to be seen and heard so they don’t dare get knowledgeable people into fix or mitigate the problem.

        2. Toni

          It’s my understanding that the additive to prevent corrosion would have had to been added at the very beginning (at a price of $100 a day). Since they opted not to, the pipes are now corroded and even the water from Detroit is contaminated with lead still flaking from those pipes. Pretty sickening that the water from any river is that polluted in the first place, imho.

      2. Anna Reed

        The Flint River water was properly treated and appropriate for consumption as it left the treatment plant. However, the MDEQ told the city that it was not necessary to put the anti corrosive additive in even though EPA guidelines would tell you to do so. Everywhere you turn, decisions were made to save money, without adequately looking at the human element.

        1. Bill

          DEQ required Flint to conduct a series of water test to determine if corrosion control would be required. Two rounds of tests 6 months apart per SDWA lead and copper rule. The first round was completed about a year ago and the second last July. Based on the outcome of this testing DEQ required Flint to install optimized corrosion control in August. Apparently this was not fast enough for some, but I understand DEQ staff wanted to be on firm legal footing with this requirement so as not to be accused of exceeding their legal authority.

      3. Kathy

        “The question in my mind is why the water plant didn’t provide the additive to minimize the leaching?”
        The decision to use the river wasn’t necessarily bad, per se. And the water coming out of the river and treatment plant didn’t have lead in it. That wasn’t the problem at all.
        The key point was decisions about the anticorrosion treatment. Something that I doubt was decided at the governor or emergency manager level.
        Municipalities and states have various departments to handle the ins and outs of very complex matters. No governor is involved in the highly technical details.

        1. Doug

          Do a little more research. You will find that the decision was made by the emergency manager. A position that we voted on to not allow in Michigan but this administration put back in place again. And this manager is the one in charge of the schools in Detroit right now. A scary thought. He is only looking to save a buck and right now those schools are in need of major repairs. So it is the governor where the buck stops, it’s his hand pick person making the decisions.

        2. Pat Shalhoob

          You’re correct re the Flint River Water. I’m not sure, though, about whether governor was involved, as testing results should have alerted MDeQ and the Fed. VERY early on. And I’m not understanding why the Fed didn’t know, as all testing results go to the Federal Govt.

    3. Margot Haynes

      The answers to the question of DEQ’s responsibility and behavior are here:

      1. Bill

        Siddartha Roy authors the postings on associated with Virginia Tech.
        These postings do not appear to be peer reviewed and carry a heavy spin. The tone and context of these postings is political rather than academic in nature. the few I have looked at make me wonder if Mr. Roy does fact checking. In one article he asserted that some Virginia Tech action pressured DEQ into issuing the corrosion control order in August. This is another case of correlation without proof of causality. I understand DEQ actions were based on a regulatory schedule which pre-dated whatever V Tech thought it might have done.
        One needs to evaluate the Virginia Tech postings carefully and look for information from other sources to confirm their assertions. Portions of the postings are at best yellow journalism. This is not to say all the Virginia Tech info is not useful, but they came in with an agenda. Failed to offer to split samples with DEQ and work in a collaborative fashion.

        1. Matt G

          The article in question is labeled as “commentary”, which can be read as “potentially biased analysis”.

          As for the vtech study in general, many journalists across media types are using it as a source. Marc has been interviewed many times on Mich Radio, and sticks to the facts as far as I can tell. MDEQ officials attempted to discredit him and the docs that did the initial blood tests to confirm lead last year. The truth is winning out, and I think it’s obvious which sources of info we should trust. (Hint: it’s not the State of Michigan officials who were involved or the people above them).

        2. Margot Haynes

          You are correct that the article is labeled commentary and has an opinion to share. However, it quotes many communications from the MDEQ which demonstrate the contemptuous attitude they adopted to those who were trying to reverse the lead poisoning in Flint by providing factual data.

          I suggest you peruse the site and note the results of lead testing last summer. Professors and students of engineering AND ethics stepped forward voluntarily to help protect the citizens of Flint by scientific data gathering. The bias there is only in their integrity and morality. Please go and read the article I cited and note the opposite stance in the words themselves of the MDEQ!

          1. Matt G

            Oh I agree with you and I’ve read the articles. I’ve been following this for months. I was simply pointing out to the above poster that an article labeled “commentary” is entitled to have bias. I completely agree that their bias is towards outrage driven by their evidence based research.

    4. Bill


      DEQ required Flint to conduct two 6 month rounds of testing under the SDWA lead and copper rule. The first round was completed about a year ago and the second last summer.


  6. Robert Bennethum

    I am a bit angry at the prospect of having to help “bail out” this lying, cheating group of hypocrites. Governor Snyder, with all do respect; Man up! You made a decision to save a few pennies! It is now going to cost all of us untold billions. Not only in repairing the infrastructure you and your cronies destroyed, but more importantly, the countless lives you have destroyed as well!
    You should be sent to prison the the rest of your natural life for the innocent children and adult lives you have destroyed.
    I watched your entire speech, the one you “read”, with no real emotion, remorse or inflection of guilt.

    1. Susan

      Robert, I agree with your comments. Gov. Snyder should be held responsible. To think of the untold, irreversible damage his “cost saving” decision has on the people of Flint makes me sick. His apology was cold and insincere. And his misstatements to shift blame are disgusting. Governor Shame

    2. Doug

      Didn’t the governor say in his speech that he would personally fix the problem in Flint? I thought that meant he would use his personal money. NOT OURS!

  7. Lola Johnson

    No matter where one lives in Michigan, it is our duty to ensure that the people learn the truth: this criminal assault upon the families of flint was perpetrated by the governor and his appointed minions. NO ONE ELSE. We voted against the emergency manager law, but they did it anyway. When we questioned the wisdom of having unelected, unaccountable folks making decisions about our cities and schools, this governor arrogantly stated that HE was elected, and the EMs were accountable to him. Okay, it’s his baby. No shifting blame for his careless and cruel “business” decisions. I will do my best to ensure that folks know the truth. These children matter. They are the future of Michigan.

    1. Sue Van

      Excellent comments, Lola. They sum up the situation in a nutshell!

    2. Hank

      ‘No matter where one lives in Southern Colorado, New Mexico and the United States it is our duty to ensure that the people learn the truth: that the criminal assault upon the families of Colorado, New Mexico and the environment surrounding the Animus river was perpetuated by the President and his appointed minions at the federal EPA.’

      Me thinks that the majority of commenters on this site would not agree with the above. I submit that you all do not have a fraction of the facts required to assign blame or to accuse that this was a ‘criminal” assault.
      It does seem, on the face of it, that the city council decision in March 2013 did start the process which led to the Flint river being used. The statement, by itself, does not assign blame. It seems that the e-coli outbreak in the Flint river (ongoing testing apparently done by some authority) in the summer of 2014 possibly after water initial water testing by the DEQ/state EPA and the introduction of chlorine into the water which resulted in the PROBLEM lead in OLD piping joints leaching out. This leads to a plethora of questions which too many here are ready to convict without answers.

      1. When an Emergency manager is assigned does this retire all involvement by the city officials and all responsibility?
      2. How often is the water quality tested in Flint or other communities in MI and by whom?
      3. What is the acceptable level of lead in the water and what was the level observed with each sampling by date?
      4. How many residences had lead leaching pipes out of a total number of residences? (Lead pipe sealing is usually an older process used on household cooper pipes.) I.E. how many residences were affected in excess of the acceptable level for lead and what is the breakdown for health affects?
      5. When did the City water authority find out that the lead levels were above normal and who did they report this to and when. What were the levels reported?
      6. When did the DEQ and state EPA receive notification of excessive lead in the water and what was the level reported?
      7. Was the Federal EPA informed and what were the specifics of the report and when?
      8. When was the Governors office informed and what were the specifics of the report?
      9. When will we get a scientific/medical diagnosis of the extent of the lead poisoning and the expected long term affects on the identified affected population and the ways to mediate these physical affects?
      10. When will we see a comprehensive plan to address the water piping containing lead (joint sealing) in Flint in order to prevent this from happening again?
      11. When will we hear from the Federal EPA as to the extent of this problem in old cities and towns like Flint across the US and what action is recommended to prevent a re occurrence?

      Please feel free to add to the questions.

      1. stephen C Brown

        I think Snyder needs to appoint and empower an independent, professional investigator and prosecutor ASAP. These are the questions, and they should be answered by the professional engineers/scientists-not the political hacks.

      2. Sally Hackett

        Would you plz cite some sources as I begin to look into details. of the Animus River situation. Thank you. Also, Michigan Radio has researched many of the details of the Flint water situation. My understanding of Emergency Manager in Michigan means the EM rules, not the local elected officials

        1. Hank

          Google “Colorado River poisoned”. There are lots of postings. The EPA did it a few months back but I expect that you haven’t heard of it since NBC/MSNBC and Mother Jones practiced propaganda by omission as usual.

          1. Frank

            Hank, Hank,you seem to be projecting…and a bit off base, at that: Snyder and his minions are closer and far more to blame than Obama and his minions, although the conservative attempts to obliterate the function of government services is largely to blame in both cases. You seem more familiar with the events in your own backyard, and as you also point out, information on both travesties abound, and you’ve just read some of the best and accurate information about the Flint debacle. You don’t however, seem to be as aware of details of the Animus River spill, apparently having had to rely on ‘biased’ media reports that simply laid the blame squarely on the EPA. Do you feel that there is/was more to the story than that EPA representatives caused a mine waste spill into the Animas River while attempting to shore up a damaged waste retainers? Could there be a larger problem for which the resources of the EPA are ill-equipped to handle? Could the 19th century mining cleanup regulations be a bit overdue for updating?
            Although both these problems are tragic, they are not the same; they will require huge additional expense to remedy, but the people of Flint, and perhaps other Michigan cities are in dire straights, having put people at life-long risk…needlessly, but for a few dollars; whereas the Animas/SanJuan basin is at risk, but reparable…for some more dollars. conclusion: government costs money (taxes), there is no free lunch…we need to quit demeaning government, rather continue making effective use of it.

      3. William C. Plumpe

        I will add what I consider to be the major question.
        In April of 2014 MDEQ approved a permit to allow the City of Flint to use Flint River water as a source for drinking water. Without this permit Flint could not have begun using Flint River water. Did MDEQ exercise proper due diligence before approving the permit? Were proper tests done to determine the quality of untreated Flint River water? Did MDEQ review the processes in place or proposed to treat Flint River water to ensure those processes met required standards of health and purity? If the emergency manager approved the use of Flint River water then refused to approve the use of a Federally required anti corrosive agent and MEDQ signed off on the permit then I would say both the emergency manager and MDEQ bear direct and primary responsibility for the Flint water crisis.
        Clearly prior to approving the permit MDEQ could have asked for further study or stopped the entire switch over. Was internal political pressure put on MDEQ by the emergency manager and/or the Governor to approve the permit without proper due diligence?
        And since the Governor appointed the emergency manager and is ultimately responsible for all major decisions made by State agencies I would say that Governor Snyder is responsible for the Flint water crisis too.

    3. Christine

      Exactly Lola

  8. Lori

    As with many others, I’ve been trying to understand this for the past few weeks. If I understand correctly, the Flint River water in and of itself was not corrosive. It was the chlorine that was added to it to take care of e-coli that made it corrosive. And, then the failure to add whatever was needed to reduce the alkalinity caused the problem. I don’t think these required treatment steps are unique to the Flint River. Water treatment is chemistry/science and the process/chemistry used here was not good.

    1. Robert

      Come on Bridge. You have the resources to debunk or continue this fairy tale. Yes Fairy Tale as if it was just a little oversight mistake.

    2. Bruce Smith

      If, as you suggest, the chorine is the problem, be aware that chlorine has to be added to the Lake Huron Water as well. The water arriving in Flint will be raw water requiring treatment. I think there maybe other issues as river water picks up other minerals as it travels along its banks. Not necessarily bad minerals just normal stuff in the soils.

      1. Lori

        This is from a NY Times article on 1-15-16:

        Fecal coliform bacteria appeared in the city’s water in the summer of 2014. Officials addressed the bacteria problem by pumping extra chlorine into the system, but did not add any corrosion control treatment. The water, which had become highly corrosive, caused lead to start leaching from pipes and home plumbing as it flowed through the city.

        I think that delivering clean, safe, water is a scientific and a technical process. The City didn’t do a good job of making clean water and the DEQ did not do a good job with oversight.

        1. Sue Sue

          This is correct Lori!

          This is in the hands of the city official because they are elected and know what is going on locally. Toledo called an emergency when its water had ecoli in it. I don’t care if there is an emergency manager or not but that is financial related not leadership related.

          1. Doug

            Sorry Sue it is emergency manager related. He made the decision to not spend money and add the chemicals to stop leaching. The EM is the person that makes those decisions on money spent.

      2. Christine

        The Flint River has been used as an industrial sewer for many years. Think GM and associated industries. Even GM had to disconnect from the river because it was corroding their machinery. Please tell me what treatment would have been sufficient and safe enough for human consumption?

  9. William C. Plumpe

    It is crucial as well as damning that Michigan Department of Environmental Quality signed off on the permit allowing Flint to draw drinking water from the contaminated Flint River.
    Without the sign off by DEQ the switch over to corrosive Flint River water could never have happened. All other decisions before and after either lead up to the sign off by DEQ or happen as a result of it.
    The DEQ is responsible for ensuring purity of drinking water in the State and overseeing the actions of municipal water systems.
    How DEQ could have approved using Flint River water from a health and environmental safety perspective is totally beyond me. Did DEQ do any due diligence at all in regards to the condition of Flint River water or the processes used to make it potable or did they sign off based upon assurances from others without doing any investigation themselves? If so that is clearly at minimum a failure to do proper oversight. Was the decision rushed because of the influence of the Emergency manager to save money no matter what or was the Flint water crisis in some way a result the negotiations to form a regional water authority?
    Only time and further independent investigation will answer these troubling questions.
    Responsibility and blame for the Flint water crisis sits squarely on the shoulders of the Michigan DEQ and ultimately the Governor.

    1. Glen

      Or the MDEQ is told off the record that you will play ball or your job will be on the line. Fox guarding the hen house is very much a possibility.

    2. John Grant

      Good questions but I think you miss the point. The state is run by a political party that does not believe in science, It believes that he who yells loudest and longest owns the facts. It’s like Reagan picking a professional union buster to head the Labor Department. Political power is the arbiter of right and wrong, not science, not facts. If the Republic Party is willing to ignore nearly 200 countries meeting in France on climate change because it doesn’t exist, they are surely capable of ignoring a few water tests on the den of savages in Flint.

      1. William C. Plumpe

        I don’t disagree that the Flint water crisis is a major political issue.
        But if you are attempting to discover and assign legal responsibility for the disaster
        you really can’t use politics as an explanation. You will only be labeled as a radical rabble rouser and will lose a great deal of credibility.
        Science and logic will determine who was ultimately responsible for the Flint water crisis.
        Going political will only muddy the waters and give the perpetrators an excuse to hide behind.

  10. Mike Belzer

    This is a great summary, but too polite. The Governor and his Administration — including the Emergency Manager — are lying to deflect responsibility, and continuing to hide the facts by heavily redacting the limited information released. It is more than insulting when the Governor tries actively to blame his victims in Flint. Everyone who has been paying attention and following this situation has known for a very long time — not since September of last year — that Flint’s drinking water system was being poisoned. Many of us did not know that damage was caused by corrosive water, but anyone who is sentient in this state heard this story develop, as the NPR/Michigan Radio story has documented it now and throughout. If “the buck stops here”, then he need to stop deflecting actual responsibility. While some of his words formally accept responsibility, the claim that government at all levels has failed the people is factually incorrect. Republican-controlled Lansing must accept responsibility.

    1. Hank

      And your preferred party is????

  11. Richard

    Appears to me it is time for impeachment proceedings against the Governor and criminal charges against others that made the decisions to use from the Flint River and later cover it up with lies. Then… Is it not true the Emergency Manager for Flint then is the EM for Detroit Public Schools now? No wonder staff members in the that district are staging actions to bring attention to yet another major mess this Governor and his cronies have done to Detroit Public Schools. Granted this was a major problem before the Governor stepped in to “fix” it….. but it appears this administration’s actions have made it much worse, with no real plan to solve this crisis too.

    1. Tom Ronayne

      How do we initiate impeachment proceedings against Gov. Snyder?

  12. Sheley

    What is the name of the engineering firm hired by the emergency manager?

    1. Lori

      I followed one of the links above and it was Lockwood, Andrews, and Newnam.

      1. Stephen C Brown

        Apparently, LAN is building the Huron Lake intake that is scheduled to complete in 2016. See:

        It’s important not to go off half-cocked about blame, let’s focus on remediating this disaster while investigating who is to blame for each mis-step. Then seek legal remedies, through an independent prosecutor-not the party hacks typically directing government agencies. Professionals should be given immunity against retaliation for their sworn testimony. An independent investigator and prosecutor should be appointed ASAP.

  13. Diana

    It boils down to the failure of 1) checking the water quality before switching, and 2) honest reporting of the results of the water quality study. Another example of how government (no matter at what level) has failed the trust of the people. The culprit in this incident is who every turned their back on the water quality study.

    1. Stephen C Brown

      When we vilify the “government”, we should make a distinction between the professional public servants that take their responsibilities seriously from the political hacks that are appointed to control them. This is what a civil service is all about, and most people no longer make this important distinction.

  14. Leon Bryson

    I simply wonder why anyone from the DEQ or EPA would downplay water testing requirements? Would it be their responsibility to error on the side of caution? This was a major change: from Pure Lake Huron Water to Flint Toxic River Water. Wouldn’t it be in the best interest of the individuals working for our “trusted” government agencies to be cautious when making such a severe change and make sure all the “i” were dotted and “t’s” crossed? If anyone working in these specific government agencies would fine anything potentially bad with the water quality, would it not be in their best interest to report it as soon as possible? Maybe it was not in their best interest to error on the side of caution. If this is the case, we need a change in leadership…..before we are all subjected to “governmental failure”.

    1. Greta

      The DEQ said they would not mind having an oil or gas well 450 feet from their homes as they try to ram drilling through in densely populated areas. “You get use to the smell and noise” were the Flint residents supposed to get used to the taste and oder of the water ? Don’t kid yourself, the DEQ gets paid a little extra on making or saving money for their state.

  15. Tam

    One can only wonder what would have transpired if the individual had reported the bad ‘O’ ring on the Challenger. Would he have been ignored like Miguel Del Toral was in Feb 2014 when he shouted forth the warning that there was a major problem in Flint water? And why did EPA stick their head in the sand on this? EPA knew, GM knew, medical professionals were raising red flags, people were complaining, etc etc etc.. Yet no one did anything – they “trusted the government to take care of them” – Why?

    State government officials were depending on the advice of their staffs, who they assumed to be competent and have basic knowledge in their fields – clearly they didn’t. I see no evidence that there was any malicious intent on the part of anyone, just a lot of inexperience and lack of knowledge on the part of advisors. That said I don’t understand the “concerned citizens’ who did nothing – “didn’t want to get involved”? If you knew about the situation, you were involved. Perhaps the citizens of the State of Michigan need to request some input from the Men in Oregon who were able to make their voices heard about the gross abuses by the federal government. It is easy to blame ‘the government’ and sit back and do nothing if you are not directly impacted. If we don’t stand up to governmental abuses and failures and make our voices heard, we have no one to blame but ourselves when there is no one to stand up for us when we face governmental injustice.

    1. John Grant

      The people of Flint protested for months. How did you miss that?! Snyder and his minions blew them off as agitators and ignored them as completely as possible. The administration was confident that their political power would rule over the facts and the noisy rabble.

      1. Tam


        Protesting is a waste of time if there are no results. There have been lots of negative remarks about the people in Oregon who took over the federal building, but the reality is that those Men were willing to endure not only physical hardships of staying out there in the winter, but the negative comments from some of the people in that area. They are willing to endure the hardships because they believe that our federal government is out of control and violating the rights of US citizens. The Men who dumped the tea in Boston Harbor because King George was violating the rights of at that time British subjects were cast from the same mold. We just celebrated Martin Luther King birthday. Certainly his protests were heard. I was always told “you don’t get results from one end you go to the horse’s head”. People may have complained, but I didn’t see any protests at the State Capitol; hear of an overfill crowd at any of the legislative committee meetings or demonstrations in front of Flint City Hall. Complaining isn’t protesting. Protesting means you are willing to take the risks involved. The risks can be high, but the benefits of a free and healthy society are higher.

  16. Jim Miller

    It would be too bad if the Flint crises, although tragic in and of itself, masked the larger problem. The Snyder administration is the least transparent of all the fifty states. There’s been way to much anti democratic (with a small d) measure like gerrymandering. Emergency managers appointed by fiat without regard to democratically elected local governments. When voters voted to oppose stronger emergency manager practices king Snyder ignored the wishes of the Michigan people and acted by his own wishes. And that’s nothing to how he’s botched education with plans from a coctail napkin. It’s like he knows better than anyone else and he’ll do as he pleases despite what the majority wants. Makes one wonder how much of that philosophy is wrapped up in the Flint debacle. Michigan citizens are unfortunate to be saddled with such an arrogant governor.

    1. Pure MI

      This sad experience is an illustration of the difference between a CFO and a CEO. The Governor ran for office touting his “CEO” credentials. Yes he was appointed CEO for the interim wind down period at Gateway Computer while the company got sold. But he had been the CFO and that was in fact his background and experience. The Duties of a CEO are to look down the road 5 to 10 or more years and to consider decisions in a context of an entire organization. The CFO is only numbers oriented.

      Add to that mindset a Legislature corrupted by ALEC (and maybe some racism), but certainly and demonstratively, a disregard of the people – the lame duck legislature ignoring the vote of the people to repeal the 1st ALEC Emergency Manager law and replace it (seamlessly, thank you Bill Schuttee for your OAG citing North Dakota law!) with an even more draconian EM law.

      The seminars around the state for underemployed accountants so they can learn how to become EMs and draw a six figure salary from the poorest cities and school districts in the state. And Walla! You know have a CFO mindset being employed by EMs to the poorest local units of government in the state and the elected city councils, mayors and school boards are not allowed to provide any check or balance to the “cut, cut, cut” mentality. Cutting out elected officials – would a CEO that looks at the entire organization have done that? So, there you have it: a mindset that finally ran into the reality of trying to manage something other than numbers.

      In fairness, cutting 7 billion in debt from Detroit WAS a major accomplishment. But how do you follow up on that with an EM running a school district? What do accountants know about education?

      Even the Romans, when they had to appoint an emergency manager – a dictator, usually because of an invasion, left the governance of none emergency (non war) issues to the regular decision makers. And, importantly, there was a time limit on the appointment of the dictator. The Michigan EM law is the broadest dictatorial law in history. There is no time limit for an EM – DPS is going on 13 years.

      So, I can see why the Gov wishes to spin the Flint problem to include the locals. But it doesn’t wash. And once the problem occurred the “help” from his staff, DEQ and EPA also failed to step up. If this experience doesn’t stir your libertarian thinking about government, then you should explain to me why these multiple failures weren’t caused by multiple levels of government.

  17. Dave Day

    No where above is there any mention of the infrastructure through which the water passes. Who is responsible for maintaining this? Is the lead in the water in the Flint River or from the pipes through which the water passes?

    1. Nancy Derringer

      Dave, I don’t know where you’re writing from, but it’s been pretty widely reported locally that the lead came from the plumbing infrastructure, i.e., the pipes. The river water was more corrosive than the treated water the city had been buying, and wasn’t treated with the proper chemicals to maintain the coating that has built up over time on the old lead pipes. The more corrosive water stripped it away, and allowed lead to leach from pipes and lead soldering.

      1. Bill

        Nancy is correct. You may call Flint River water a lot of things but it is not toxic and has little or no lead. Flint water distribution pipes and service lines are ?70 years old, poor maintenance, only one or two recent lead pipe replacements out of perhaps thousands of lead service lines, lots of stagnation in the water lines, history of water main breaks etc. There were multiple concurrent issues DEQ was working on before/during the lead issue: aesthetics (color,odor ffor which there is little regulatory authority0, poor chlorine residual, trihalomethane levels, e. coli, main breaks, and so on.

        Treated water pH data reported to DEQ was slightly basic…pH 7.8-7.2. Trihalomethanes resulted from increased chlorination in an effort to maintain residual chlorine throughout the distribution system. High organic content in raw river water required large quantities of ferric chloride in the coagulation/filtering treatment process and, I understand, this created an increase in chlorides in the treated water which facilitated galvanic corrosion of lead pipes and solder after mineral scale was eroded from pipe interiors.

  18. Thomas Ford

    Here’s the thing. Like many people in my family and other families as well, I am a New Dealer. The Republicans have feared and attacked many of the things that made up that deal. Besides Social Security, Workman’s Compensation, wage, hour and working condition protection, workers fought and died for the right to organize and bargain on their behalf. Since the take over of the Democratic Party by the corporate, banking and insurance interests at the 1944 Democratic convention the people have been put in increasingly difficult situations. Almost every program initiated during the New Deal has been attacked and weakened to the point of irrelevancy In a well organized and financed covert mission, these forces of evil worked behind the scenes tearing down the gains made under the New Deal bit by bit until they felt comfortable coming out from the shadows during the Reagan presidency. It was then that the seed was planted that government couldn’t solve our problems because government was the problem. These Radical Right Wing Republican zealots have hammered home these anti american philosophies until today they are sincerely believed by your average man/woman on the street as can be seen in the popularity of people like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. You can trace the impetus of the poisoning of the people of Flint from the poisoning of the minds of the people by the wealthy and powerful who have made it their mission to tear down our democratic style government and replace it with one owned and operated by them. Bernie Sanders campaign is focused on stopping this takeover from happening. You can observe Hillary’s campaign from a distance and she her inability to disengage herself from these corporate connivers. Its like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings. Hillary just can’t seem to keep the ring of corporate power and influence in her pocket. And like Gollum she mistakenly believes she can control it . Come to our Shiawassee County for Bernie Sanders meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 26 from 5:00 to 6:00 PM at the Corunna Community Center at the intersection of Norton and Mack Streets in McCurdy Park, Corunna, MI. Come and learn about Bernie and what yo can do to help him win.

  19. Brian

    A better question is this: Who authorized the water to be piped to users without being treated with anti corrosives? I think that we wouldn’t be talking about all of this if they had just treated the water properly.

    I do think the EMs and the Governor shoulder the bulk of the blame because the city’s elected officials had no authority to do anything that cost money without the EMs authorization. But I still want to know who decided to not spend the money to treat the water… or did they NOT KNOW they had to do that? I suspect it was a money decision.

  20. Steve

    How can a truth squad make a call with out a full look at the truth?
    Yes,the final call was by a state appointed manager. Yes the DEQ ignored a snow ball rolling down a hill. Yes, it was assumed the switch would be fine based on the information.
    But, if you look at the whole story you will find motive. Detroit has long charged a premium to those outside the city. Yes, this has always been a thorn in the side of those paying it.
    By state constitution a municipality cannot make money for use outside of the water department. But a municipality can under charge and use general funds to pay the remainder. Flint had been doing this for some time. This is one of the many reasons that the money management practices sank the city. The emergency management decided to make these decisions with all this in mind. The easiest choice would have been to remain on the Detroit water and pass the higher costs onto the residents. But the backlash would have been huge.
    The part that does show some blame on users of the water is, the user pays for the connection between the water main and house. Common knowledge was that lead pipes where used in ground and steel inside back when first installed. The home owners have had decades to replace these pipes. It is the home owners responsibility for these costs. So, these home owners have been neglectful in not addressing a known danger for decades.

    1. stephen c brown

      If the responsibility is the (numerous) homeowners, then it is the responsibility of a well-managed government to find a collective solution to a widespread public health problem. Any self-respecting government would publicize the problem, organize a solution, and finance it through a combination of public/private mechanisms-not bury it or shift blame. The Romans understood this and did not blame the victims. This is a long-recognized responsibility of the economic and social leadership of a society. The perfect definition of a decadent society is one where this leadership absolves itself of its responsibility to focus on its privilege.

  21. John S.

    Elected (and appointed) public officials, like other people, engage in self-deception, and often construct stories that justify their actions and/or deny responsibility when the facts simply don’t support those stories. They’ll stick to their stories, believing them to be true, even when to others they aren’t. If the are caught in an obvious lie, they misspoke.

  22. Sue Sue

    Where is the outrage for Porter Ranch, CA.? Citizens have been complaining for months and finally the Gov. –who is a democrat issues a state of emergency? Where is the President’s outrage?

    This political and your liberal leaning publication just shows that even more!

    1. Doug

      Sue. Bridge is a Michigan website. If you look they don’t deal with issues from other states. Don’t bring in problems from other states. We have enough in this state to take up our time. If you are worried about those then find websites that deal with issues in other states.

  23. Randall E Raymond

    I believe everyone responsible for this Flint water environmental disaster should be held accountable to the highest level. The effects of lead poisoning on student achievement in Detroit Public Schools was published in the American Journal of Public Health in March, 2013 and clearly shows the devastating impact that high levels of blood lead cause on children’s learning potential. This landmark research was published a full year before they decided to switch the water! They should have known what might happen!😡
    Early Childhood Lead Exposure and Academic Achievement:
    Evidence From Detroit Public Schools, 2008–2010
    Objectives. We assessed the long-term effect of early childhood lead exposure
    on academic achievement in mathematics, science, and reading among elementary
    and junior high school children.
    Methods. We linked early childhood blood lead testing surveillance data from
    the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion to educational testing
    data from the Detroit, Michigan, public schools. We used the linked data to
    investigate the effect of early childhood lead exposure on academic achievement
    among school-aged children, both marginally and adjusted for grade level,
    gender, race, language, maternal education, and socioeconomic status.
    Results. High blood lead levels before age 6 years were strongly associated with
    poor academic achievement in grades 3, 5, and 8. The odds of scoring less than
    proficient for those whose blood lead levels were greater than 10 micrograms per
    deciliter were more than twice the odds for those whose blood lead levels were
    less than 1 micrograms per deciliter after adjustment for potential confounders.
    Conclusions. Early childhood lead exposure was negatively associated with
    academic achievement in elementary and junior high school, after adjusting for
    key potential confounders. The control of lead poisoning should focus on primary
    prevention of lead exposure in children and development of special education
    programs for students with lead poisoning. (Am J Public Health. 2013;103:
    e72–e77. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301164)

  24. Steve W

    The switch to Flint River water is not the reason for the lead problem. It was the decision not to adequately treat the Flint River water. Trying to get at the question of how the switch to Flint River water was made and who was responsible is largely a red herring. Bridge confuses the issue by focusing on this aspect of the problem. I believe that Bridge is trying to help the public understand the problem, but first Bridge must understand the problem, and it doesn’t look they do.

    1. Lori

      Thank-you Brian. Well said. I am tired of rhetoric, finger pointing, and blame from people who don’t seem to understand what the problem really was. The water wasn’t treated properly. Why not? I don’t think it was a money issue because I read yesterday that the chemicals to treat it (anti-corrosives) would have cost only $100 per day.

      1. Doug

        Better check on that one. The EM decided not to spend the money.

    2. Lori

      Oops I wrote Brian. I meant Steve. Sorry.

  25. KG-1

    I would highly recommend that The Bridge bring in a body language expert and re-watch Gov. Snyder’s speech from earlier this week.

    I believe that you are literally scratching the surface of a far bigger problem than anyone even remotely realizes.

  26. Karen Hart

    I’ve noticed that there’s a bill pending in the legislature that would give immunity to emergency managers. After weighing the pros and cons of that, I’m coming down on the side of BAD IDEA.

  27. BigDCvx

    In this tragic situation, it seems that some people see more blood in the water than lead. Fiscal realists are trying to rein in utter profligacy in Flint, and because a problem occurred that wasn’t handled properly, all of a sudden the mean, greedy, selfish rotten so-and-so Republicans are terrorists.

    What a golden opportunity to snatch back control of the State for the democrats. Let’s all pile on!

    Also shows you’re very worried…and rightly so.

  28. Karen

    The Flint river is not corrosive. Come on, let’s get some truth in reporting! The root cause of this is that the water was not properly treated to run through Flint’s antiquated water pipes. Most older cities have this issue. There are additives to the water that prevent the lead from leaching out of the pipes. This didn’t happen with the Detroit water because they add the right treatments to the water to prevent it. So the question everyone should be asking is WHY DIDN’T FLINT WATER TREATMENT ADD THE RIGHT TREATMENTS TO THE WATER TO PREVENT THIS? AND WHO MADE THAT DECSION?

  29. Ken Kolk

    If I remember correctly the first “Emergency Manager Law” was either ruled unconstitutional or was voted down by a state wide referendum. Then the Radicals (Republicans) passed a new “Emergency Manager Law” and attached something to raise revenue so it could not be subject to voter approval before it took effect. Everywhere these friends of the governor who become “emergency managers” have taken over cities, school districts, etc. they have seemed to make matters worse. If you want this insanity of the state punishing the poor and middle class to benefit the wealthy to end we have to start taking primaries and non presidential election year elections seriously! Always keep your registration current and always vote in every election, without any exceptions!

    1. Jim H

      The Emergency Manager concept is an attempt to save the citizens of Flint (and other Michigan cities and school districts) from the direct results of unbridled spending of their governing bodies (surprise – all Democrats) over many years. While the chickens have come home to roost, the State is doing what it can – including spending money from other taxpayers around the state to do so. It is tempting to respond – fine, you don’t want an Emergency Manager? I don’t either! Stew in your own juices.

      1. Doug

        But the EM’s haven’t done well in some places. DPS closed the newest schools and left open the older ones. Look what has done. The money that the taxpayers agreed to spend to fix up the buildings where did it go under the EM?

      2. Pure MI

        Jim, what you say exactly reflects the minds of the legislature, and maybe the people of the state generally. But before you arrive at your conclusion you should consider other (important) factors that have led several local school districts in particular, into financial trouble.

        The state – though the last three administrations (2Rs and 1D, Yes, Engler started it but Jenny did it too) has been cutting its school aid across the board. Whether you are Bloomfield Hills, Grosse Pointe or Pontiac and Detroit, state aid has dropped dramatically over the last twenty years. And it is therefore no surprise that financial problems hit the school districts with the worst demographics first. How many times have we heard about the shrinkage of Detroit’s population? And yes, big districts needed to shrink and to mind expenses and to stop any corruption. And maybe they should have done that better. But the state aid budgets were a steady Lansing target.

        And more recently the embrace by Lansing of charter schools as a”fix” appears aimed at the MEA – not at a better education. Seriously, the Legislature put nothing in place to measure the quality of charter schools; and what little that test results may actually or arguably say about that, doesn’t show any difference in the charter movement’s educational product. The desire by the State to arrogate power to Lansing and to micro manage education is so far a complete failure – with or without an EM. There was a good reason that local school control by the local voters had successfully supported a great product of public education for over 100 years. Now it seems Lansing wants to turn public education into a relic of the past and let a “modern” “business” approach deliver on the product. Are you ready to further support such an experiment? And if so, based on what results? Certainly not the results to date. Reality seems to be that the charter dollar, being equal to the public school dollar, goes further (almost solely because there is no union contract) to obscure Lansing’s continued cutting of school aid. All of this is about their budget – not education. It does seem like we have our priorities messed up in this regard. And this outlook and mindset certainly will adversely affect the Detroit “comeback.” Without a decent school system, why would you move there with a young family?

        So please stop looking for slogans and shortcuts to find “the” cause of the problem. There are plenty of causes and it would be nice if Lansing tried to look at it that way for a change instead of tiresomely using the partisan canard. Hey, that would be nice in D.C. too!

        1. Duane

          If you want to consider a root cause, think about the role/responsibilities of the students. All you have talked about is other people’s money and adults.

          Until the conversation involves those who we are expecting to learn the results will not change appreciably. If offer a phrase to put you on the path to a root cause; ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’

          Have you ever wondered why some in the same classroom succeed, some fail, and the rest are in between? If not, then I understand why you can only see money and adults.

          I was one of the in between [my choice] and only found later in live why/how to drink the ‘water.’

    2. Margot Haynes

      Ken, many of us spent valuable time from our lives to collect signatures to qualify the petition drive for a referendum against the terrible revisions to the emergency manager law, enacted after the election of 2010. Then the people of Michigan voted the law down, fairly and decisively. But then the Republican-dominated Legislature revived it and put it in place with an appropriation added so it could not again be rejected by referendum. The EM system–rejected by the people of Michigan–is the system that makes Gov. Snyder responsible for fixing the poisoning of Flint created by his own EM.

  30. Hank

    Breaking news!
    Federal EPA regional manager Susan Hedman just resigned since she had numerous advisories starting in early 2015 that Flint water was contaminated and apparently did nothing.

    Wow, will Hillary comment again!

    1. Clifton

      I have been wondering what the EPAs role has been in this. Amazing that Democrats just crawl over this before the facts are in. Hillary is such an opportunitist. We need to operate on truth not inflammatory rhetoric.

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