25 Mar

Flint Water Advisory Task Force Final Report

flint report

snyder report

Executive Summary

The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) failed in its fundamental responsibility to effectively enforce drinking water regulations. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) failed to adequately and promptly act to protect public health. Both agencies, but principally the MDEQ, stubbornly worked to discredit and dismiss others’ attempts to bring the issues of unsafe water, lead contamination, and increased cases of Legionellosis (Legionnaires’ disease) to light. With the City of Flint under emergency management, the Flint Water Department rushed unprepared into fulltime operation of the Flint Water Treatment Plant, drawing water from a highly corrosive source without the use of corrosion control. Though MDEQ was delegated primacy (authority to enforce federal law), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delayed enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), thereby prolonging the calamity. Neither the Governor nor the Governor’s office took steps to reverse poor decisions by MDEQ and state-appointed emergency managers until October 2015, in spite of mounting problems and suggestions to do so by senior staff members in the Governor’s office, in part because of continued reassurances from MDEQ that the water was safe. The significant consequences of these failures for Flint will be long-lasting. They have deeply affected Flint’s public health, its economic future, 1 and residents’ trust in government.

The Flint water crisis occurred when state-appointed emergency managers replaced local representative decision-making in Flint, removing the checks and balances and public accountability that come with public decision-making. Emergency managers made key decisions that contributed to the crisis, from the use of the Flint River to delays in reconnecting to DWSD once water quality problems were encountered. Given the demographics of Flint, the implications for environmental injustice cannot be ignored or dismissed.

The Flint water crisis is also a story, however, of something that did work: the critical role played by engaged Flint citizens, by individuals both inside and outside of government who had the expertise and willingness to question and challenge government leadership, and by members of a free press who used the tools that enable investigative journalism. Without their courage and persistence, this crisis likely never would have been brought to light and mitigation efforts never begun.

Findings (a few listed below)

Michigan Governor’s Office:

F-12. Ultimate accountability for Michigan executive branch decisions rests with the Governor.

F-13. The Governor’s knowledge, and that of Governor’s office staff, of various aspects of the Flint water crisis was compromised by the information—much of it wrong—provided by MDEQ and MDHHS.

F-14. The Governor’s office continued to rely on incorrect information provided by these departments despite mounting evidence from outside experts and months of citizens’ complaints throughout the Flint water crisis, only changing course in early October 2015 when MDEQ and MDHHS finally acknowledged the extent of the problem of lead in the public water supply.

F-15. The suggestion made by members of the Governor’s executive staff in October 2014 to switch back to DWSD should have resulted, at a minimum, in a full and comprehensive review of the water situation in Flint, similar to that which accompanied the earlier decision to switch to KWA. It was disregarded, however, because of cost considerations and repeated assurances that the water was safe. The need to switch back to DWSD became even more apparent as water quality and safety issued continued and lead issues began to surface in 2015, notwithstanding reassurances by MDEQ.

F-16. The Flint water crisis highlights the risks of over-reliance—in fact, almost exclusive reliance—on a few staff in one or two departments for information on which key decisions are based. F-17. Official state public statements and communications about the Flint water situation have at times been inappropriate and unacceptable.

Read the Full Report

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