A Criminal Act: Michigan Government Supplied State Workers with Clean Water, as They Told Flint Residents the Tap Water Was Safe to Drink

JAKE MAY/AP Pastor David Bullock holds up a bottle of Flint water, which has been deeply contaminated with lead.

JAKE MAY/AP Pastor David Bullock holds up a bottle of Flint water, which has been deeply contaminated with lead.

Just as we thought things couldn’t get any worse in the Flint water crisis, new revelations prove there is always room for more outrage.

For the past year — even as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration knew the Flint water was poisoned but assured residents it was safe to drink until this past fall — the state government was supplying its employees in Flint with clean water.  Progress Michigan, a progressive group critical of the governor, released emails showing that Snyder was taking care of his own workers, while telling Flint residents not to worry about the tap water.

“While the City of Flint states that corrective actions are not necessary, DTMB is in the process of providing a water cooler on each occupied floor, positioned near the water fountain, so you can choose which water to drink. The coolers will arrive today and will be provided as long as the public water does not meet treatment requirements,” the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget said on January 7, 2015, as reported by Time.

According to The Associated Press, Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the agency that manages state buildings, confirmed the water coolers began in January of last year, a decision “we made as the building owner.”  This came after Flint had failed drinking water standards above and beyond the lead poisoning. Buhs claims the employees were never told the tap water was unsafe but were being given an alternative. Further, he said the water coolers are still being provided to a state office building in Flint and that state employees are also able to use the drinking fountains.

Meanwhile, the two Democratic senators from Michigan will have an uphill battle to secure $600 million from Congress to replace contaminated pipes and treat Flint residents who were exposed to lead poisoning.  As CNN reported, Sen. Gary Peters and Sen. Debbie Stabenow have introduced a bill to assist Flint.

“I think we need to be careful here because while we all have sympathy for what’s happened in Flint, this is primarily a local and state responsibility,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 ranking Republican in the Senate. “Given the fact that we have about $19 trillion in debt I think it’s fair to ask do we want to have the federal government replacing all the infrastructure put in place by cities and states all across the country.”



Filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore has had choice words for the governor and state officials regarding their “criminal actions” against the residents of Flint.  On his website, Moore tells the public in no uncertain terms how they can help the victims of this beleaguered Michigan city: Do not send bottled water.

“The reason you can’t help is that you cannot reverse the irreversible brain damage that has been inflicted upon every single child in Flint. The damage is permanent,” Moore wrote. “There is no medicine you can send, no doctor or scientist who has any way to undo the harm done to thousands of babies, toddlers and children (not to mention their parents),” he added, calling lead poisoning a life sentence, and noting that children have been drinking this water for two years, with a toll already being taken on their developing brains.

“You would have to send 200 bottles a day, per person, to cover what the average American (we are Americans in Flint) needs each day,” Moore wrote. “That’s 102,000 citizens times 200 bottles of water — which equals 20.4 million 16 oz. bottles of water per day, every day, for the next year or two until this problem is fixed.”

Rather, citing the “disastrous consequences of late-20th century, neo-conservative, trickle down public policy” and how “actual water” has been used to promote “twisted economic beliefs” that have destroyed the lives of Black and poor people, Moore called for a nonviolent revolt.  He wants the removal and arrest of Governor Snyder, and notes that the state of Michigan should be made to pay for the disaster it created using its $600 million rainy day fund and $600 million surplus.

Further, Moore wrote that the federal government must be placed in charge — including FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and that all Flint residents who want to leave should be evacuated to white communities that use the Lake Huron water source.  Moreover, for those residents who do remain, he demands that FEMA create a temporary water system in each home.

“There is not a terrorist organization on Earth that has yet to figure out how to poison 100,000 people every day for two years — and get away with it,” Moore said.

The woes of Flint residents have led to increased scrutiny of the state-appointed emergency manager system, which is being implemented by Gov. Snyder to take over predominantly black municipalities such as Flint and Detroit.  And now, the Detroit teachers’ union has sued its city’s school district, demanding the repair of “deplorable” conditions and removing Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, the state-appointed emergency manager who once oversaw Flint.

According to the lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, the teachers seek “an appropriately funded capital plan” to fix district-wide problems, as AP reported.  The suit alleges that under Earley, the school district “has not performed its duty to its students, parents, teachers, and community to provide a minimally adequate education and to properly maintain the schools.

“Instead, defendants have allowed the physical condition of Detroit’s schools to deteriorate to the point of crisis and have forced Detroit’s school-age children to spend their young lives in deplorable surroundings risking their health and safety in the process and imposing on students and their teachers an atmosphere that interferes with their securing a minimally sufficient education,” the lawsuit reads.

In recent days, teacher sick-outs over low pay, mold and rat infestation, freezing classrooms, classroom overcrowding and other unsafe conditions have led to the closing of dozens of schools in the Detroit public school system.  This week, a judge denied the district’s second attempt at a restraining order to stop the sick-outs.  The Detroit schools have been under state oversight since 2009.  Enrollment has dipped from 150,415 students in 2003-04 to 46,000 today, due to population decline and competition from nearby districts and charter schools within the city.

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