Friday, January 22, 2016

Only The Beginning

On January 18, as introduction to his interview of Michigan governor Rick Snyder, the National Journal's Ron Fournier wrote

The slow and pos­sibly deadly pois­on­ing of Flint, a hard-bit­ten in­dus­tri­al town of nearly 100,000, began in April 2014, when the city switched its wa­ter source from De­troit to the Flint River to save money. Res­id­ents’ con­cerns were ig­nored for 19 months un­til in­de­pend­ent tests by Vir­gin­ia Tech and a loc­al hos­pit­al re­vealed dan­ger­ous levels of lead ex­pos­ure.

Only then did Michigan’s en­vir­on­ment­al agency ad­mit to vi­ol­at­ing fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing the treat­ment of Flint’s wa­ter to avoid cor­ro­sion of the city’s an­cient wa­ter pipes, a lapse that caused the lead pois­on­ing. The fate­ful de­cision to switch Flint’s wa­ter source was made by an emer­gency city man­ager ap­poin­ted by Snyder.

In early 2015, months be­fore the lead pois­on­ing was pub­licly an­nounced, an ana­lyst at the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency dis­covered dan­ger­ous levels of lead in Flint’s wa­ter. An appointee of President Obama forbade the results from being released to the public.

Presumably, we've now determined who that appointee is, for on Thursday we learned

The Environmental Protection Agency's regional administrator for Flint, Michigan, has resigned, the agency said in a statement Thursday.

"EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman has offered her resignation effective February 1, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has accepted given Susan's strong interest in ensuring that EPA Region 5's focus remains solely on the restoration of Flint's drinking water," the agency said.

In late June, then-Flint Mayor Dayne Walling wrote to Hedman, seeking information about the issue of lead in Flint's drinking water. She essentially shot him down in her response.

"The preliminary draft report should not have been released outside the agency. When the report has been revised and fully vetted by EPA management, the findings and recommendations will be shared with the City and MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) -- and MDEQ will be responsible for following up with the City," Hedman wrote.

She had also fallen under fire for allegedly retaliating against EPA employees involved in investigating sexual harassment cases.

President Obama now has pledged $80 million to the state of Michigan for improving its water-related infrastructure.  That is a good start, as is the resignation of the official who apparently kept scientific findings from the public for several months, during which lead exposure to the citizens of Flint (Flint River from Bill Pugliano/Getty Images, below) continued to rise.  It is now time for the media to begin to hold accountable Governor Snyder, his appointees, and the GOP-controlled legislature for their role in destroying one of Michigan's cities.

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