Michigan governor to lay out plans to fix Flint water crisis

Posted at 8:42 AM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 08:42:19-05

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has come under fire for handling the drinking water situation in Flint so badly that some critics have dubbed it “Katrina II.”

He himself has acknowledged it’s been a “disaster” but says he’s doing all he can to fix it.

Snyder is expected to lay out some of those steps when he addresses the Michigan Congress on Tuesday night.

What he won’t do is step down.

Even though protesters have repeatedly called for him to resign, he has resisted.

“I want to solve this problem,” he told the National Journal. “I don’t want to walk away from it.”

Toxic tap water

In April 2014 the state decided to temporarily switch Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure until a new supply line to Lake Huron was ready. The river had a reputation for nastiness, and after the switch, residents complained their water looked, smelled and tasted funny.

Virginia Tech researchers found the water was highly corrosive. A class-action lawsuit filed last year alleges the state Department of Environmental Quality didn’t treat the water for corrosion, in accordance with federal law, and because so many service lines to Flint are made of lead, the noxious element leached into the water of the city’s homes.

The city switched back to the Lake Huron water supply in October, but the damage was already done to the lead pipes. The state is now handing out filters and bottled water with the help of the National Guard.

Attorneys will meet Tuesday to discuss two new class-action lawsuits filed by Flint residents that target the governor, the state Department of Environmental Quality and former Flint emergency managers, among others, said Eric Hood, who is coordinating media for the plaintiffs.

The suits will detail government officials’ culpability and will provide a more detailed timeline than the previously filed federal lawsuit, Hood said.

Lead poisoning is dangerous for anyone — the related woes include skin lesions, hair loss, vision loss, memory loss, depression and anxiety, according to a class-action lawsuit — but Mayor Karen Weaver seems equally worried about the future. Research shows lead exposure can affect a developing child’s IQ, resulting in learning disabilities. Weaver worries that Flint will need an influx of funding in the future to deal with mental health issues and “an increase in the juvenile justice system.”

State of emergency on three levels

Weaver, who took office two months ago, and Snyder have both declared states of emergency. Responding to Weaver’s and Snyder’s cry for federal assistance, which Snyder said would help with temporary housing and home repairs, President Barack Obama also issued a state of emergency Saturday.

“The checks and balances that theoretically could have been there didn’t work. This is a mess. I mean, I feel terrible about all this happening. And that’s why I’m working hard to do everything I can to repair the damage and then actually work to strengthen Flint and the citizens,” Snyder told the National Journal.

It’s too little, too late, say some.

On Monday, around 100 protesters rallied outside of the governor’s home in downtown Ann Arbor, according to CNN affiliate WXYZ. More protests are planned for Tuesday.

More than just water woes

Flint isn’t the only crisis Snyder is dealing with at the moment.

Snyder is also expected to address the “hazardous” conditions of some Detroit schools. Teachers across have staged a massive “sick out” in protest of conditions they say are hurting students’ WXYZ reported.

Teachers have complained of overcrowded classes, deplorable building conditions and equipment shortages.

Mayor Mike Duggan took a tour of city public schools last week along with city environmental officials and the head of the city’s main teachers union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, according to his office and a union spokeswoman.

The 20 schools thought to have the worst problems will be inspected by the end of January, with the other schools inspected by the end of April, the mayor’s office said.

“We’ve been assured by Emergency Manager Earley that DPS will respond promptly to correct any deficiencies found in these inspections and we look forward to working with the district to resolve these problems,” Duggan said.