We haven’t had the chance to really dig into the toxic plume which is the drinking water supply in Flint, Michigan yet, but by this point it’s obvious that this is a disaster with far reaching implications. Normally when I think of a disaster coming out of Flint it’s Michael Moore, but this happens to be no laughing matter. In case you somehow missed it, the drinking water in and around the city has toxic levels of lead in it, with the metal showing up in residents’ blood streams in damaging levels. At the same time they’re wrestling with an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, also associated with tainted water supplies. As usual, there are activists working every bit as hard to assign blame for this mess as working for a solution.
Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took the obvious route which many other members of his party and assorted liberal activists have done… blame the Governor and call for his resignation. The reason I say “obvious” in this context is that Michigan had been run by a Democrat (Jennifer Granholm) from 2003 until a Republican (Snyder) took over the Governor’s mansion, so why not just blame him, right? (The Mayor of Flint is a Democrat too, so we can’t be blaming him.)
As it turns out, people knew about the horrible water situation long before the Governor ever caught wind of it. And when you think of a government agency in the same sentence as a disaster in a water supply, who do you think of first? The Environmental Protection Agency, of course. As The Daily Caller found out, the EPA was looking into this almost a year ago but buried the topic in an internal food fight.
EPA official Susan Hedman did not publicize the EPA’s concern over Flint’s water quality or the water’s dangerous health concerns. The federal agency instead quietly fought with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for at least six months about what should be done.
EPA water expert, Miguel Del Toral, identified potential contamination problems with Flint’s drinking water last February and confirmed the suspicions in April. He authored an internal memo about the problem in June, according to documents obtained by Virginia Tech.
Meanwhile, Hedman became aware of the contamination issue in April. She sought legal advice, but didn’t receive the guidance until November 2014. The American Civil Liberties Union accused Hedman in October of attempting to keep Miguel Del Toral’s memo in-house, downplaying its significance.
This would be stunning if we weren’t talking about the EPA and their state level counterparts in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. These days it’s sadly not that much of a surprise. So the people best equipped (allegedly) to deal with the problem knew about it in February of last year. By mid-summer the Governor’s office had been made aware by residents that there were “complaints” about the water being discolored and tasting bad, but he wasn’t informed of any actual toxic level problems until October, at which point the state government machinery ground into action.
Still, since everyone wants to Blame Snyder, he finally responded. (Time Magazine)
In an interview with TIME shortly before he announced the federal emergency request, Snyder says he first knew about potentially serious problems with the water supply on Oct. 1, 2015, when testing by state environmental officials confirmed elevated levels of lead. Pressed on whether that was the first time he became aware of any concern with Flint’s water, Snyder says, “Obviously, I knew there were water issues in Flint. But did I know there were unsafe blood levels? No.”
In a recently-released email from July 2015, Snyder’s former chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, wrote to a state health department official that he was concerned that Flint residents believed they were getting “blown off” by state officials. Snyder says the email shows that his office was not neglecting the city, and Muchmore was “concerned that we were getting straight answers so he asked tough questions and he got answers.”
The Governor also faulted the Department of Environmental Quality, which repeatedly told Flint residents the water was safe to drink despite the fact that they had reports in their hands showing that the lead levels were off the charts.
Look, I get that the Governor is the captain of the ship when it comes to hitting an iceberg, and he acknowledged that much in the interview. Everyone who works for the state at every level is his responsibility. But there’s a limit to how much blame you can dump on the Governor while he’s in the middle of cleaning up this mess. In the meantime, keep handing out the bottled water. Flint is even more toxic than it’s ever been.