Daily Kos has recently featured an article that explains the water situation in no particularly flattering terms. Now it is possible for inquiring minds to understand just what has happened.
Point 1 – The city of Flint, Michigan did indeed have its own water treatment plant using the Flint River up until 1960. Apparently, city authorities started buying water from Detroit some 53 years ago, most likely a result of the way the auto industries were polluting the Flint River. A September 2011 report informed the city fathers (or the emergency manager) that the old water treatment plant would require at least $60 million dollars in upgrades before it was put back on line. This water treatment system apparently had included an emergency storage tank. Naturally, since the government and its spending are proverbially part of the problem, the authorities decided not to spend any money on the aging water treatment plant at that time. Nor was anybody concerned that the city pipes through which the water ran were made of lead. (The Detroit Water System includes an anti-corrosive in its treated water.) No one considered an earlier April 2011 report that partially treated raw sewage, or even raw sewage, was making its way into the Flint River.
Point 2 – The next plan presented by the emergency manager was to switch the new Karegnondi Water System, which was still being built. In 2013, state treasury and environmental officials helpfully pointed out this switch would not actually save the city money. – Remember, the first rule of government since Reagan’s time has been that governments do not spend money on areas where they govern. Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz decided to switch the water system to the Flint River and the 53-year-old water plant.
Point 3 – In August of 2014, the Flint Water System violated the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations twice, then violated them again in September and December. Nobody official took much notice.
Point 4 – In September 2015, after the people of Flint had been drinking dark-colored, foul smelling water for two years, Flint pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha made the first official lead poisoning reports, using her own patients and their families as a data base. The Governor’s office promptly pooh-poohed the data and was busily engaged in blowing off the data. Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services declared the spike in water-related illnesses was “seasonal and not related to the water supply.”
Yes, the federal Environmental Protection Agency undoubtedly ‘winked the eye’ at some of this, but the responsibility for citizen safety in Michigan rests squarely on the government of Michigan.