Brutal Report Blames Flint Water Crisis On Governor Rick Snyder

The new report by a task force calls Flint, Michigan "a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice"

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Mar 23, 2016 at 1:05 PM ET

report released Wednesday by a task force appointed by Michigan governor Rick Snyder found the state of Michigan to blame for the Flint water crisis, and that the “ultimate accountability” for Michigan’s executive branch lies with Governor Snyder.

“The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice” the report said. The report found the crisis was largely due to local representatives being replaced by state-appointed emergency managers, who had no public accountability. There was an “over-reliance—in fact, almost exclusive reliance—on a few staff in one or two departments for information on which key decisions are based.” Those staffers were mostly emergency managers.

The report also found the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality(MDEQ) to blame for failing to enforce clean water regulations, which resulted in high levels of lead and copper found in Flint’s water supply after it switched its water source to the contaminated Flint River. Further, the report states that the MDEQ response to the public was a “failure in substance and tone.”

For example, the report said, “Citizen concerns were at times derided and dismissed, in spite of the fact that various members of the Governor’s staff had expressed—and were expressing—concerns about the water situation in Flint at the same time.”

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,” the report said. And when the MDEQ made these missteps, the governor did not take action to reverse them, his reasoning in part being the MDEQ officials kept telling him the water was safe, according to the report.

In April 2014, a state-appointment emergency manager switched the drinking water in Flint from Lake Huron, which was treated by Detroit’s water system, to the Flint River, which was treated at the Flint water treatment plant. The MDEQ, in turn, didn’t do what was necessary to prevent pipes from corroding. The corrosion caused lead levels high enough to cause health problems in adults and a lifetime of physical or mental damage in children. While the city switched its water source back to Lake Huron in October, the pipes are still damaged and health concerns remain.

“The significant consequences of these failures for Flint will be long-lasting,” the report said. “They have deeply affected Flint’s public health, its economic future, and residents’ trust in government.”