Michigan Gov. Declares State of Emergency in Flint as DOJ Launches Investigation into Contaminated Water
The fallout over Flint’s contaminated water system is growing. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has declared a state of emergency for the city and Genesee County, and the situation is also being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice.
In his declaration Snyder said, “The damaged water infrastructure and leaching of lead into the
city’s water caused damage to public and private water infrastructure, and has either caused or threatened to cause elevated blood lead levels, especially in the population of children and pregnant women, and causing a potential immediate threat to public health and safety and disrupting vital community services.”
Last week Snyder apologized for Flint’s contaminated water and also accepted the resignation of Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. MDEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel also resigned Tuesday. A Snyder-appointed task force criticized the MDEQ for dismissing complaints about Flint’s water system.
“I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened. And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure,” Snyder said. “I know many Flint citizens are angry and want more than an apology. That’s why I’m taking the actions today to ensure a culture of openness and trust. We’ve already allocated $10 million to test the water, distribute water filters, and help in other ways.”
Flint residents started complaining of discolored, foul-smelling water soon after the city switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River as a water source. The decision, by Snyder-appointed emergency manager Ed Kurtz and the Flint City Council, was made to save money.
Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Wayne State University Law School, told The Detroit Free Press that a DOJ investigation could lead to criminal charges if wrongdoing was discovered.
Filmmaker Michael Moore, a native of Flint, called the decision to get water from the contaminated Flint River an act of genocide targeted at Black people. Flint, a city of 100,000 people, is 60 percent Black.
The contaminated water could lead to long-term physical problem in Flint’s children. According to The Detroit Free Press, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and has been linked to behavioral problems. Residents are also considering filing a class-action lawsuit. So the decision to save money will end up costing everyone in Flint dearly.