Oakland County Executive Calls Flint Water Crisis ‘Overblown,’ Gov. Snyder Tries to Prove His Innocence

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 Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. (Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press)
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. (Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press)

There are 9/11 truthers, Sandy Hook truthers, San Bernardino truthers, and now there are Flint truthers. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence, including testimony from medical and water experts, video and photographic evidence and multiple first-hand testimonies, some people still doubt that Flint’s water is contaminated by lead poisoning.

According to The Detroit Free Press, Oakland County Executive, L. Brooks Patterson said the Flint water situation was “overblown.” Patterson cited a radio interview by Bill Ballenger, a former state lawmaker who lives in Flint. According to Patterson, Ballenger said he had drank and washed in the water and had reported no side effects. Ballenger also said there was no evidence of elevated lead levels.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Patterson quoted Ballenger saying the Flint water situation was “one of the most overblown scandals in the history of the state.”

However, while some Republicans are dismissing the Flint water crisis, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is taking it extremely seriously. Snyder has already received federal help for the contaminated water in Flint and has apologized for the crisis, which has been blamed on emergency managers he appointed. Flint residents have been complaining of brown, foul-smelling ever since the city switched to the Flint River for its water source.

Snyder is facing an increasing number of calls for his resignation. Filmmaker Michael Moore and presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders have both called for Snyder to step down. (Moore has also called on President Barack Obama to visit Flint.) They have been joined by a host of other civic groups. According to The Guardian, 350 protesters staged a demonstration at the State Capitol calling for Snyder’s head on Tuesday.  The demonstrators chanted slogans such as “clean water is a right, not just for the rich and white” and “Flint lives matter.”

Flint resident Richard Vasquez was one of the protesters at the State Capitol. He said what happened in Flint was a national embarrassment for a developed country like America.

“We are not Third World. This is America, this should not happen here,” Vasquez said. “That’s why we have people from all over the city and world here, supporting Flint. Because it can happen to you, it can happen in your city.”

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, a left-leaning communications organization based in Lansing, Mich., told The Guardian Tuesday’s rally attracted 20 different organizations from around the state. One of the groups represented was the Michigan Nurses Association. Cheryl Weston, a registered nurse and former Flint resident, said she talked to some Flint parents who had complained their children were having a hard time concentrating in school. She also learned that Flint hospitals had stopped using tap water, even for washing.

“That tells me a lot,” she said.

Snyder requested a $28 million appropriation from the legislature during his state of the state address to deal with Flint’s water problem. Snyder has been accused of being aware of the contaminated water and failing to take action. He announced he will release 2014 and 2015 emails regarding Flint in an effort to counter this charge.

However, many Michigan residents have already lost faith in Snyder and want him gone.

Michael Sabbagh, a Detroit-based doctoral student and activist, accused the Snyder administration of trying to bury evidence of the contaminated water in Flint.

“The governor’s office was so dismissive of reports of water contamination for over a year,” said Sabbagh, “and they had all the information. I don’t think most people would be satisfied with anything short of resignation. Most protesters’ demands are [for] Governor Snyder’s resignation and potential arrest.”

Some residents have opted to take legal action over the situation. According to ABC News, lawyers have filed three lawsuits on behalf of Flint residents.

Attorneys from Pitt, McGehee, Palmer & Rivers have also announced class action lawsuits against Snyder, former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Genesee County. Attorney Bill Goodman said he had filed a federal lawsuit. Attorney Cary McGehee said a call center has been set up to recruit Flint residents for a class-action lawsuit. 500 people have registered so far, he said.

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