Getting the Pb Out Of Flint’s Water

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has not dropped the ball on the contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Her report on the poisoning of the residents when their water supply was switched, showed explicitly how responsibility for the tragedy falls to Republican Governor Rick Snyder and his radical, anti-democratic policies.

Bryn Mickle, Flint Journal/MLive editor, talks with Rachel Maddow about why his organization is calling for a federal investigation, including subpoena power, of what the Rick Snyder administration knew, and when, about the problems with lead and the new water supply to Flint.

After Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and the Genesee County Board of Commissioners declared a state of emergency over the contaminated water supply, this afternoon Governor Rick Snyder stopped dragging his feet over a crisis that his office created declaring, too, that this was indeed an emergency.

Snyder’s office issued a news release late Tuesday saying the governor made the declaration “due to the ongoing health and safety issues caused by lead in the city of Flint’s drinking water.” and activated the state Emergency Operations Center.

Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead in 2014 after switching its source of supply from Lake Huron to the more polluted and corrosive Flint River. The move — a cost-cutting measure while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager — resulted in a spike in lead levels in children, which causes brain damage. A recent preliminary report from a task force appointed by Snyder placed most of the blame on the state Department of Environmental Quality and prompted the Dec. 29 resignation of DEQ Director Dan Wyant.

Although the state assisted Flint in switching its drinking water supply back to Lake Huron water from Flint River water in October, there are concerns that lead problems persist due to damage the corrosive river water caused to the water distribution system.

Commissioner Wyant’s resignation was prompted when it was discovered by the ACLU and an independent researcher discovered that the data had been manipulated by the DEQ to make it appear that Flint’s water was safe to drink and lied to the US Department of Environmental Protection:

The records — obtained by the Michigan ACLU and by Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech researcher who helped raise concerns about Flint’s water — show how state officials first appear to have encouraged the City of Flint to find water samples with low lead levels and later told Flint officials to disqualify two samples with high readings. The move changed the overall lead level results to acceptable from unacceptable.

The e-mails also show that DEQ district coordinator Stephen Busch told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Feb. 27 that Flint had “an optimized corrosion control program” to prevent lead from leaching into the drinking water from pipes, connections and fixtures. In fact, the city — disastrously — had no corrosion control program.

One Democratic state representative is going to introduce a bill that would make manipulating data by Michigan official a felony. While Snyder emergency declaration was welcome, it only came after the US Justice Department confirmed that, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it has opened an investigation of the city’s water contamination.