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Budget Cuts and Negligence Poisoned the Drinking Water in Flint, Mich.

Posted on Jan 16, 2016

    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011. (Michigan Municipal League / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Calls for the resignation of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder are intensifying in the face of evidence that he allowed 100,000 residents of the city of Flint to continue cooking, drinking and bathing in water known to be contaminated with lead.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is among those demanding that Snyder leave office.

“There are no excuses,” Sanders said in a statement released Saturday. “The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing. As a result, hundreds of children were poisoned. Thousands may have been exposed to potential brain damage from lead. Gov. Snyder should resign.”

“[F]amilies will suffer from lead poisoning for the rest of their lives,” Sanders continued. “Children in Flint will be plagued with brain damage and other health problems.”

Reports say the problem began in spring 2014, when the cash-strapped city switched water sources, hoping to save money. Corrosive water drawn from the Flint River stripped lead from pipes, resulting in high levels of the toxic metal appearing in the blood of children. Subsequently, the city switched sources again.

Julia Lurie at Mother Jones magazine reported that cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the area have spiked over the past year and a half, with 10 people dying out of a total of 87 cases. Marc Edwards, a scientist at Virginia Tech who helped expose the water’s lead contamination, told the Detroit Free Press that there’s a “very strong likelihood” that the change in water supply enabled the disease’s recent surge.

The New York Times reports:

In the last three weeks, a panel appointed by Mr. Snyder reported that state officials had for months wrongly brushed aside complaints about the contamination. The governor apologized for the state’s performance, Michigan’s top environmental regulator resigned, and federal agencies announced that they were investigating.

In recent days, even as Mr. Snyder has declared a state of emergency, requested federal action and summoned the National Guard, he has continued to face intense criticism that the state has been slow to react, despite admitting that it bungled the problem.

In Flint, a poor city plagued by aging infrastructure and declining population, residents and business owners voiced anger, frustration and fear.

“I mean, this is insane, you know?” Sonya Houston, 42, said as she visited a fire station to pick up a water filtration pitcher. She said that she and her husband had only recently found a new home and that their daughters, ages 7 and 8, “can’t even use the water in their own home.”

Continue reading here.

Documentary filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore has published an open letter asking President Obama to travel to Flint. In it, Moore criticizes Snyder’s decision to source water from the Flint River:

[...] the Governor was right. It was a lot cheaper! Fifteen million dollars cheaper! And for saving all that money, it is now estimated that to repair the damaged water system in Flint, it will cost at least $1.5 billion. Someone had suggested to the governor, before he did this, that the river contained many toxins. He ignored that. One of his own people said maybe they should add a safe-to-drink “corrosive protector” to the water so that the toxins in said water wouldn’t leach the lead off the aging water pipe infrastructure and into the drinking water. “How much will that cost?” asked the governor’s office.

“Just $100 a day for only 3 months,” the governor was told. Oh, $100 a day?! THAT’S TOO MUCH!, came the reply from the governor. Don’t worry about the lead. “Lead is a seasonal thing,” he would later explain to the public. “Heck, there’s lead in everything!” Just let them drink the river water.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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