Many are incensed over Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s slow response to the public health disaster in Flint, Michigan regarding high levels of lead in the water supply that reportedly went largely ignored for more than a year.
Those people include the likes of Michigan residents filing recall petitions as well as former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her main competitor, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I).
“I think every single American should be outraged,” Clinton said during Sunday night’s Democratic debate. “We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care.”
The problems likely began after April 2014, when Flint switched from using Detroit’s water supply to using the Flint River. Since then, residents have complained the water smelled and tasted bad, might have been giving them rashes, and seemed to be contaminated with lead. Snyder (R) began taking action in October 2015, months after his administration was first made aware the water supply was unsafe.
“Secretary Clinton was right and what I did, which I think is also right, is demanded the resignation of the governor,” Sanders said. “A man who acts that irresponsibly should not stay in power.”
For his part, Snyder insisted his administration took action as soon as he became aware of “elevated lead levels in blood,” Time reported.
On October 1, two months after the state “quietly” delivered 1,500 water filters to the city, Snyder first said he was aware of the problems with Flint’s water supply, The Detroit Free Press reported. The state did not immediately instruct residents to stop drinking the water without a filter, however. It wasn’t until January that the state began delivering water bottles and filters door-to-door, and Snyder declared a state of emergency in the area on January 5.
It wasn’t until nine days after that announcement, on January 14, that Snyder asked Obama to declare a federal state of emergency, which freed up to $5 million in federal aid for Flint. The state previously allocated $10 million to assist Flint, Reuters reported.
Free Press Columnist Nancy Kaffer found that an analysis claiming Flint’s water was safe last summer was deemed to be flawed by a number of state staffers, and was then promoted by the state. Another analysis that raised more concerns about the contaminated water supply was “disregarded,” according to Kaffer.
Recently, it’s become clear that a “dramatic” increase in cases of Legionnaires disease, a severe form of pneumonia, in Flint are likely connected to the tainted water supply, per the Free Press, which cited officials from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
At least eight petitions to recall Snyder were filed with Michigan’s secretary of state as a result of the water crisis, the Free Press reported Thursday.
Snyder, who was reelected in 2014 largely for his role in helping Detroit come back from a disastrous economic stretch that culminated in bankruptcy, insisted to Time that he was not ignoring the emergency.
“There was some time period where we were offering filters, we were working hard to get water,” he told Time. “All these kind of things. But not enough of it was being accepted. Now we’re to the point now where hopefully we’re fully engaged and have everyone working hard to make sure everyone in Flint has access to a water filter.”
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which told residents the water was safe despite contradictory reports, was at fault of “being probably too technical in their interpretation of things or following a traditional pattern of doing things rather than stepping back to look at what else you might see in data,” Snyder said.
Flint has been switched back onto Detroit’s water supply until the lead contamination problem — which was a byproduct of the Flint River’s “very corrosive” water leaching lead from an ageing pipe system in the city — is solved. The head of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality resigned as a result of the crisis.
Snyder admitted to the National Journal that the water crisis is a stain against his governorship that’s appropriately been compared to former president George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“[I] should have been more proactive,” he said, adding “It’s a disaster.”
Asked if he believed people calling for his resignation are making a “legitimate request,” Snyder later said he won’t be stepping down as governor.
(National Journal columnist) Ron Fournier: Some people are calling for your resignation. Do you think it’s a legitimate request?
Snyder: The request is coming more from people outside Flint than inside Flint.
Fournier: There are people inside Flint who want you out. I talked to some of them today.
Snyder: If you’re in Flint and you’re affected by it I can see a wide range of opinions on lots of things.
Fournier: Is resigning something you’re considering?
Snyder: No, because as soon as it came to my attention we started to take serious action. What I’d say is I feel terrible about it, though, and it’s clear that changes needed to be made in my administration and I think long-term, there are things that need to be improved.
Fournier: And one of those things is not the governor quitting?
Snyder: I want to solve this problem. I don’t want to walk away from it.
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