Tag Archives: flint water crisis

Flint residents speak out against court ruling on municipal water contract

Federal Judge advances contract over objections of city council

U.S. District Judge David Lawson ruled Friday that a 30 year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority can go forward over the objections of the Flint city council. Many residents are understandably skeptical of the deal and resent the loss of autonomy of their elected officials.

“Forcing decisions onto the city government is exactly how the Flint Water crisis started!” said Michigan United activist Carly Hammond at a press conference Tuesday outside City Hall. “This contract was negotiated with the state’s best interests in mind, not the city of Flint and certainly not the residents.”

Lead leached into Flint’s municipal water supply in 2014 after a state appointed Emergency Manager ordered that the city switch from Detroit water system to the caustic Flint River in order to save money over the objections of the city council. State officials ignored residents complaints for years before the problem was documented. During that time, scores of people were also infected by the Legionella bacteria. Twelve of them died.

“We want the State and Federal Government to release Flint from the grasp of officials who have no incentive to treat the residents of Flint fairly.” Said Megan Kreger. “If we had been able to maintain authority over our own governance, thousands would not have been poisoned, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t have been allocated to fix pipes.”

Job Posting: Flint Water Justice Organizer

Deadline: Candidates must apply by April 18th, 2016.

Michigan United is a statewide coalition of faith, labor, civil rights, business, and social service organizations working together for racial and economic justice through community organizing.

Michigan United is seeking dedicated staff to lead an urgent campaign in Flint Michigan.

The people of Flint have been drinking poisoned water for over a year. This is the result of extreme negligence on the part of the State of Michigan, as well as a likely cover-up. This poisoning takes place within the context of the long-term struggle faced by Flint to overcome poverty, discrimination, and out-sourcing of manufacturing jobs.

The immediate crisis and long-term needs can only be met by rapidly developing the leadership of low-income families in Flint, and advocating for just reconstruction, reinvestment and health plans.

The role of the Flint Water Organizer will be to:

  • Recruit Flint families to join campaigns to win just reconstruction, reinvestment and health programs.
  • Train impacted families to become leaders of advocacy campaigns for community needs
  • Work to support the local leadership coalition
  • Conduct strategic advocacy campaigns to win reinvestment, renewal and just water policies for Flint
  • Support ongoing door-to-door canvasses
  • Develop community education programs on the long-term impacts of lead and copper poisoning
Position requirements.

The Flint Water Organizer should:

  • Have a tireless commitment to social justice
  • Be ready to talk to strangers and ask them to take action
  • Be a self-starter who can see opportunities and seize them
  • Be ready to work in a fast-paced environment with limited supervision on urgent campaign timelines
  • Have experience and public relationships in Flint
  • Have their own reliable car – American-made cars are strongly encouraged
  • Have their own cell phone and computer
  • Be comfortable working with a diverse group of partners, members, and staff; -Be able to work with modern office software.

The position is based in Flint, Michigan. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons are strongly encouraged to apply. Pay for this position is commensurate with experience. This position is funded full-time for 6 months, and may be extended pending additional fundraising.

Please send resume and cover letter to: hank@miunited.org

cc: ryan@miunited.org

Subject: Flint Water Organizer

Water expert blames DEQ ‘cover-up’ for Flint crisis

and , The Detroit News February 5, 2016

The engineering professor who helped uncover the contamination of Flint’s water told Congress Wednesday that primary blame lies with a few state environmental officials who “misled” Michigan leaders and residents and tried to “cover up” proof of high lead levels.

“One-hundred percent of responsibility lies with those employees at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. There’s no question,” Marc Edwards, a water expert at Virginia Tech University, told the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.

But Edwards also faulted the former Midwest chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Susan Hedman, who last summer discredited a key in-house memo that should have set off alarms about the failure of water officials to properly treat Flint River water.

“EPA had the chance to be the hero here, and Ms. Hedman snatched defeat for EPA from the jaws of victory,” he said.

Hedman resigned effective Monday. Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said his committee wants her to give a deposition under oath to committee lawyers about her agency’s response to Flint.

Lawmakers on the committee pressed a state official and an EPA official for almost three hours on the government’s handling of the water crisis and how both the DEQ and EPA dismissed complaints and test results for months as city residents continued to consume lead-tainted water.

Republicans focused more on the EPA’s shortcomings in Flint, while Democrats tore into the state’s role. But the officials the committee most wanted to hear from were not in the room.

Chaffetz said former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, who refused an invitation to testify Wednesday, would be served with a subpoena by U.S. marshals if necessary. Earley, in a state-appointed role, oversaw the city when it switched the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure.

Democrats also continued to call for Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, to bring Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to Washington for questioning, saying the committee couldn’t conduct a comprehensive investigation without him.

Chaffetz said he has made no final decision on whether to call Snyder to testify, and made no guarantees about holding another Flint hearing.

“Look, I’m going to keep all options open. I’ve made no final decision one way or the other,” Chaffetz told reporters after the hearing.

Flint residents in attendance

Onlookers began lining up outside the hearing room on Capitol Hill shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday. The crowd included two busloads of residents from Flint and two busloads from Detroit, said Erik Shelley of the liberal group Michigan United.

Many wore “Flint Lives Matter” shirts and said they were disappointed not to hear from Snyder. Barbara Carr of Flint was among them.

“It’s unfair, and someone needs to be held accountable,” she said of the discolored, smelly water flowing from her taps at home.

Democrats and at least one Republican lawmaker criticized Snyder’s use of Michigan’s emergency manager law, which is applied to municipalities that run consistent deficits and amass huge debts.

Oversight Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said the law might be unconstitutional because it usurps the democratic process.

Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Virginia, called the failures of the emergency managers in Flint “the consequence of putting ideology ahead of human beings and their needs and welfare.”

Speaking to reporters in Flint Wednesday, Snyder defended his policy of appointing managers to handle financial emergencies. “Emergency managers have been successful in a number of other places in Michigan,” he said.

Joel Beauvais, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, faced a grilling about his agency’s delayed response to Flint. He said EPA staff who urged Michigan officials to address the lack of corrosion control in Flint’s water were met with resistance.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, questioned why EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy didn’t make her first trip to Flint until this week — almost a year after her agency became aware of the city’s problems.

“I find it despicable that Gina McCarthy, the administrator, shows up in Flint yesterday instead of going there immediately,” Gosar said.

Beauvais said he didn’t believe McCarthy knew about the Flint crisis for eight months. “I came into this job in November of 2015, so I don’t have personal knowledge of all the communications that were done,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, questioned Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan DEQ, about his agency’s response to federal officials.

“With the law and your responsibility, what failed? … And can you explain to me the response to EPA on February 26 (2015) advising the state of Michigan that there was lead and high levels of corrosion in Flint water?” Lawrence asked.

“It’s the question of the day, and that’s what many of the auditors and reviewers are looking at,” Creagh said.

Lawrence asked whether anyone has been held accountable at the state DEQ.

“As you know, there’s been some changes at the DEQ. There’s been suspensions at the DEQ. Everyone deserves due process,” Creagh replied.

“We are working in conjunction with both the city, the state and federal government to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Procedures concern Walberg

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, asked Edwards why many water utility owners and operators aren’t following proper procedures for testing for lead in drinking water. Is it a “lack of clarity in federal regulations or lack of enforcement or both?” Walberg said.

“The only thing I can conclude is that they don’t care about children getting lead poisoning from drinking water,” Edwards said.

“Do you believe they’re violating the law?” Walberg asked.

“I believe that they’re not enforcing the law or enforcing their own policies,” Edwards said. “Had it not been for people completely outside the system, those people in Flint would still be drinking this water to this day. That is a fact.”

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, said it was “outrageous” that a “government-made” situation like Flint’s could happen in the United States, calling for an independent, nonpartisan investigation and for more state aid for Flint.

“The state spends $33 million on the Pure Michigan ad campaign, yet has provided only $28 million to make sure the people of Flint have pure water,” Amash said at the hearing. “The state has the resources. The state needs to make it right.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, who testified Wednesday, called on Snyder to “write a check right now for the $60 million the mayor of Flint has asked for to replace the lead service lines.”

“This is a public relations campaign (by the state) right now,” Kildee told reporters after testifying. “It goes beyond partisanship. This seems to me to be individuals who are just trying to protect their reputations, and are more concerned about that than they are about kids in Flint.”

Creagh submitted written testimony ahead of the hearing referencing an in-house EPA memo, prepared in June 2015 by agency water expert Miguel Del Toral. It laid out the public health dangers inherent in the state’s failure to require corrosion controls in the Flint River water.

Creagh highlighted an email from an EPA employee advising DEQ officials on how to deny having seen the Del Toral memo, after the state acquired it through a third party.

When asked by Walberg, Beauvais said Jennifer Brooks, a staffer in the Midwest Region 5 of EPA, sent the email.

“I do not know why that email was sent,” Beauvais said. “We are looking into that.”

Beauvais testified that he was not aware of any punishment of Del Toral: “Mr. Del Toral is a valued member of the EPA’s team. He is a nationally recognized expert in this area.”

Walberg asked Edwards’ opinion of whether Del Toral was punished by the EPA.

“Not in writing, but the way the EPA operates in general is that people who are causing trouble by doing their job are simply not allowed to do their job,” Edwards said. “They are silenced, like Mr. Del Toral was.”

LeeAnne Walters, who lives in Flint half-time, said her complaints to the city and state about her discolored water and her family’s health issues “were dismissed.”

Walters reached out to the EPA, and Del Toral was the “only one willing to address the problem.” She said she requested a copy of his June 2015 internal memo on Flint’s water and made it public “because people had a right to know.”

mburke@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8736

Freelance writer Jacob Carah contributed.

6 Things You Can Do right now to Support the people of Flint, MI

We’ve all heard about the crisis in Flint: lead and other contaminants leaching into the water due to gross negligence at all levels of government.
Response and recovery is going to be a long process, and Michigan United is committed to supporting Flint for the long-haul.
What can you do?
1) Take action! Click HERE to sign up to volunteer today.
Regular canvasses and events are being held to identify and inform people who are directly impacted and connect them to the resources they will need in the coming weeks and months.
2) Donate to the Genesee Hispanic-Latino Collaborative.
The Collaborative is working to ensure that immigrants get access to the information and resources they need. Many didn’t find out about the water problems until recently, and are disenfranchised from the city’s normal water distribution system.
3) Donate water directly. 

asuvpodnwzcumkyioa2gIf you live in the Detroit area, you can bring bottled water to the Michigan United Office at 4405 Wesson Street between 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Donors in the Flint area can take water to St. Mary’s Church, 2500 North Franklin between 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM.
4) Join Michigan United’s Environmental Justice team in Detroit.

We’re going to need a strong team fighting for clean water and a just recovery all across the state.

5) Attend the Michigan United meeting in Flint.

Thursday, January 28th, at 6:00 PM at 1st Unitarian Universalist Church, 2474 South Ballenger Highway. We’ll be talking about what next steps we can take together to address the causes of the crisis and hold the politicians who caused it accountable. RSVP to rae@npa-us.org to take part.

6) Speak out!
Do you know someone who has been impacted by the crisis? Michigan United is working with our partners to ensure that local families have their voices heard in the media. We’re looking for Flint residents, especially families with small children, that might be willing to tell their story to the press. We’ll provide training and support. Contact Erik Shelley at erik@miunited.org.

Flint’s water problem wasn’t inevitable.

It’s happening because politicians acted with callous disregard for the lives of low-income families and communities of color. This is what happens when the legislature takes away the right of a community to vote for their own local leadership.
We’ll work hard to support the immediate needs of residents and hope you will too. But as we work for the long-haul, we need to be equally committed to fighting for a just recovery and to overturning the laws that caused this problem in the first place.