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Monday, December 21, 2015

Op/Ed: Flint Toxic Water Situation Is Not New, It's Criminal, It's Past Time for Accountability

Photo Credit - Pontiac Tribute
The Black Tan Rock Filled Water of Flint, Michigan


By Monica RW - Editor in Chief of @IUNewsTalk

Addendum:
Although not included in the original article, this piece would be remiss to not properly note the wonderful efforts of "We The People of Detroit - Clean Water Access Activists," organizing both the Flint Residents Healing Stories heard at the March 24 symposium and contacting citizen journalist based groups - including Independent Underground News & Talk - original attendance at the event.

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Update: Independent Underground Radio LIVE - "Detroit's Voice of Progress" will have an Exclusive Interview Flint, Michigan Clean Water Activist Melissa Mays of the group, "Water You Fighting For?.

Learn more of the real truth on Flint's Water Crisis by tuning into this interview at ON-DEMAND ANYTIME, below:




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Blogging or writing articles have been out of fashion on my behalf as of late due to many reasons. One of which include placing a keen focus on expanding our podcast Independent Underground Radio LIVE. Those efforts are paying off but, more on that later.


The Flint Water Scandal, where do began. Taking a mental trip back not to far ago in late 2014/early 2015, when stories about Tan, Black, Brown, Yellow and rock filled water started surfacing out of Flint, Michigan.

Our resource, Independent Underground Radio LIVE talked about the crisis and played recorded audio from the "Healing Stories -Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion Listening Panel" March 21, 2015, symposium on the podcast titled:

Why Is Flint MI Water Dirty & Filthy? - IU Radio LIVE 3.24.15


This blog is a small operation with limited resources. However, after attending the symposium presented in Flint, Michigan by the "Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion Listening Panel" which we were one of ten independent citizen journalism operations, exclusively invited - we knew then this story would be huge.

Upwards of eleven residents of former "Buick City" shared their stories about water access. After listening, we knew beyond a shadow of doubt, they were indeed telling the truth.


A part of what was written as a Listening Panel Participant about the Flint Water Crisis from Independent Underground News & Talk Editor in Chief - Monica RW, is below:

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Part 4: Water:

Testimony 6-12 Synopsis – Speakers Ida, Clinton Blaydon, Bishop Bernadel Jefferson, LeeAnne Waters, Sondra Ellison and Dericco Cooper

Listener Panel Notation: Due to the Number of Speakers on the Water Issues in Flint, Michigan, this Panelist will give a Synopsis based account of the six speakers’ discussion.


Residents/Location: Flint, Michigan


Race or Class Issue: Both.


Dericco Cooper Speaker 12 - a photographer who has traveled the word with his work stated, “They have been water in Africa better than this,” referencing the contaminated water situation in Flint, Michigan.


LeeAnne Waters Speaker 10 – Spoke of attending her doctor only to receive notification her Iron Count due to drinking the tainted water registered 3.4. She fears her children will have cancer in the future as a result of Flint’s water situation and worries about the amount of lead poisoning the city residents are faced with as a result of the brown water. Ms. Walter’s is a Caucasian resident of Flint.


Both Ida and Sondra Ellison Speaker 7 and 11 -- Respectfully, discussed the amount assessed by the Flint Water Department their bills while experiencing tainted water. Ellison stated her January 2014 bill cited she used 45 gallons of water, which resulted in a $300.00 bill for that month. Ellison also contacted a plumber who stated no noticeable leaks existed in her home. 


Additionally Ellison contacted the Water Company in Flint yet, it took well over 7 days for the organization to come out and check what the problem could be.

The overall level of customer service is lacking at the Flint Water Department Ellison cites as upon entry into the location, a sign exist stating, “No Heat/No Water” and she stated, “It’s like a Circus with 20 windows in place but only two girls working” at the location. Also, Ellison noted upon receiving help at the Water Department, “They treat you like crap at the window.”


Ida received a $995.00 bill for water and spoke of having to visit the emergency room after a relative made soup with the Flint Water, “I ended up in the hospital after my daughter made the soup.”

Ida, who is 72 years old stated herself, granddaughter and daughter have experienced diarrhea symptoms after drinking Flint’s water. Ida believes the situation is Flint with the water is unfair in the level of service, health risks and associated costs of the utility as she stated “Water should be free to us. God gave us water.” Finally, she stated, “People are not drinking Flint’s Water anymore.”


Bishop Bernadel Jefferson Speaker 9 – Spoke about the loss of basic Democracy principles in Flint, Michigan by the residents not having clean water to drink and fiscal control of the city's affairs allocated to an Emergency Manager appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder – who is failing on the job to address the city’s contaminated water situation. 


“We tried not to have an Emergency Manager,” Jefferson stated – of the successful effort repealing Michigan Public Act 4, only to have it replaced three weeks later by Public Act 436.

“The government is making decisions for us yet we don’t have healthy water,” Jefferson cited, “We deserve clean water!!” Jefferson firmly believes as a result of Flint’s Water woes, “If we don’t chance the Democracy of Michigan, we will die”.


Hope or Solution: The solution is as Jefferson stated, an inherent need to change the cleanness of Water in Flint, along with the immediate involvement of Federal authorities to perform an investigation into all of the issues raised at this forum about city residents experiences with the Flint Water Department.



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Notice in the "Hope or Solution" section of our panelist notes, we stated then now nearly eight months ago for the, "Immediate involvement of Federal authorities to perform an investigation into all of the issues raised at this forum about city residents experiences with the Flint Water Department."

Again, this was in March 2015.

Moving forward, in October 2015 our program Independent Underground Radio LIVE secured an exclusive interview with Flint City Councilman Eric Mays. The 40 minute and 38 section interview is below:





Councilman Mays, who we had met personally at the symposium in March, welcomed our invitation to appear on the podcast. Mays discussed why a state surrounded by plenty of H20 with five Great Lakes, fail to have clean water in Flint.

We believed then and now, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the failed Emergency Manager Law is one of the many catalysts why the People of Flint were and are now facing, with this water health crisis situation.


During the interview October 7, IU Radio LIVE's host Monica RW asked Councilman Mays what did Flint Residents who spoke to him, reported coming out of their water faucets.
"It was discolored, it was smelly and had a funny taste to it. And then Erin Brockovich sent in her expert Robert Bowcock," Mays said. 
"And when he explained about the chlorine that goes into the water and the hardest of it, and how it's hard to treat river water. And when it passes through the infrastructure it corrodes the insides of the pipes. Breaks stuff off on the inside and that what comes through the tap. 
But we had already got a feeling (the residents were right) because General Motors said it was corroding their engine parts. That was the big one when they let G.M. go back to Detroit's Water System and keep us on the (Flint) River."
When we asked Councilman Mays who made the decision to keep Flint's Residents on the toxic Flint River Water despite the fact after General Motors demanded to be switched off the tainted water, it was immediately honored -- Mays pinpointed directly who are the responsible parties.

"The Emergency Manager and them made that decision. They took out Democracy!," said Mays to Independent Underground Radio LIVe exclusive in October 2015.  
(Michigan Governor Rick) Snyder sent his boys in here and they then messed up.  They are culpable and liable for this decision. And then the Mayor (former Mayor Dayne Walling) and certain other elected officials went along with it to go along with it. And we were fighting them at every turn.

And they were trying to tell us to "Be Cool" so they can get out of here," Mays said.  "I was trying to tell them "They should never be here". So it was a mixer of Emergency Managers and elected officials," Mays replied, that caused the Flint Water Crisis situation.
Still others, and many Mainstream Media resources in the State of Michigan literally ignored what was an obvious crisis.

Except for Michigan Radio/NPR and the local version of "The Flint Journal" now operated by MLive, even as late as October 2015 nearly no national and only a small amount of State media devoted attention to Flint's Water Scandal.



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Then a bombshell report on October 9, 2015, from Michigan's ACLU Investigative Journalist and former Metro Times Reporter Curt Guyette "Michigan Democracy Watch Blog" made the rounds of Michigan's Media planning rooms.

At this point, it was too hard to ignore anymore, Flint's Water was indeed, toxic.


We had Curt Guyette exclusively on our program Independent Underground Radio LIVE as a guest October 15, 2015, or just shy of a week after the interview with Flint City Councilman Eric Mays:



The transcribed interview is below:

1U News & Talk Host Monica RW:

We are so pleased to welcome to our broadcast, journalist Curt Guyette.

So, Welcome!


He works for the ACLU as an investigative reporter.


Previously, he worked for the Metro times pretty much covering stories around government improprieties

Hi Curt!

Michigan ACLU Investigative Reporter Curt Guyette:


I’m doing so great, thanks for having me on — it’s a pleasure.

IU News & Talk Host Monica RW:


To me, I’m just so geeked about having you on the show and I know you’ve done a lot of work around the Flint Water situation.


Um I know I gave a brief intro, but was there anything you wanted to add?

Michigan ACLU Investigative Reporter Curt Guyette:

No, the only thing to add is that the ACLU hired me to investigate and report on exclusively, issues involving emergency management and the reason that I started going up to Flint, and writing about whats going on up there, is that everything related to all these water problems are directly related to the imposition of an Emergency Manager who had complete control over Flint’s government — actually there was a whole series of Emergency Managers who had complete control, and all these problems are intricately tied to Emergency Management and what happens when you take democracy away from people.

IU News & Talk Host Monica RW:


Oh yeah, definitely, definitely.

I know our listeners are very astute in regards to Emergency Management Law, starting with PA4 back in 2011 and then the citizens repealed that in 2012 by referendum process, and then 3 weeks later they passed PA436, which was the same law with even more power for the Emergency Manager, so let me start with that question first.

Obviously, previous to this point the Emergency Managers did not have so much financial power in order to be able to make decisions over the elected leadership, whether that be a city council, the township, a school board or even a village board.

Why is it you think this is even active — ’cause to me it just doesn’t seem like that was a democracy type of viewpoint of any type of government, that you would have one person without any checks or balances making decisions for flint, and for other cities across the state that have been subjected to Emergency Managers.

Michigan ACLU Investigative Reporter Curt Guyette:


Yeah, it is completely anti-democratic, and I think the situation in Flint exposes some glaring flaws in the law in a way that haven’t really been exposed elsewhere. But you’re absolutely right, that this was a law that was rammed down the throats of the people of Michigan.


They turned out in large numbers and, as you said, voted against its predecessor, PA4 pretty resoundingly and then the governor and the lame duck legislature came back and jammed the same thing, or in a lot of ways a very similar thing, even though the people clearly didn’t want to give this much power to one appointed official.

And now we’ve seen the consequences of that.


That this Emergency Manager could order the city Leave Detroit water system and start using the clearly unsafe Flint River as the city’s primary water source.


And that to the point where, at one point the city council voted to return to the Detroit system after seeing how bad it was, after seeing people getting sick, after seeing all these problems result, and the Emergency Manager said, “Tough. You’re going to drink it whether you like it or not,” and he didn’t have any say in the matter and it’s almost the attitude is that crass on the part of the Emergency Manager, who, you know, for the most part, have no connection to the cities that they are in charge of.

They have no obligations to the citizenry, their only obligation is to the governor and to do whatever they can to make it appear that the books are balanced and make it look like their reign has been successful.


IU News & Talk Host Monica RW:


Wow. Yeah, it definitely has been disturbing since 2011 in various cities in Michigan, including Flint.

And this situation in Flint is probably, in my opinion, just astounding and probably borderline incompetent, but also maybe even borderline investigation –Federal investigation that needs to go on, because when I look at it from the things I have researched, the people of Flint have been saying that their water has been brown, murky, pasty, black, filled with rocks, and various other things that water should not be since about 2012 and then going into 2014.


So, again, can you give us a little bit history on when the appointed Emergency Manager, who was not elected, and who was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder, decided to make the switch?

Michigan ACLU Investigative Reporter Curt Guyette:

Yes, well, it’s really a two part thing, in a way, which was that one of the Emergency Managers made a decision that Flint was going to be a partner in the building of a pipeline from Lake Huron to Genesee county, and so it was a way to get away from the Detroit System and rely on their own pipeline to provide water to Flint and other parts of Genesee county.

Subsequent to that, Detroit, there was a 50 year contract between Detroit and Flint, and Detroit was restructuring how it did its rates but it said, “We want to continue providing Flint with Detroit water until you start using the pipeline water.

And, in 2014, Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, who was the 3rd Emergency Manager over Flint, wrote a letter to the Detroit Department of Water and Sewarage (DWSD) saying “Thanks for the offers.”

Matter of fact, I have the letter right here in front of me. It was on March 7th, 2014, and the ACLU of Michigan got this letter through filing of Freedom of Information Act (FOA) request, and its to the Director of DWSD, saying “Thank you for your correspondence which provides Flint with the opportunity to continue using Detroit water from DWSD.”

So, that’s important because just last week, and again this week, the governor's spokesperson, Sara Wurfel, has tried to assert that the city didn’t have any choice; that the termination of this contract forced them to start using the river water.

That is absolutely untrue and this letter is what proves it is untrue.


Detroit wanted to keep providing water – they would have been crazy not to!

They would have been cutting off their nose to spite their face if they would have just said, “Oh, we’re kicking you off.” They wanted to keep selling for as long as they could. Because they needed the income.

So, in order to absolve themselves of responsibility, both Flint city officials and Michigan officials continue to claim that they didn’t have any choice, that they were kicked off of Detroit, and that is just not true.

T
hey made the choice to switch to the river because they thought it would be a money saver. They thought it would be cheaper. Initially they said it would save them $5M, now they are saying $12M, but regardless of that, it didn’t really save them any money.


First of all, they poisoned the kids. You have all the costs associated with having educate those kids.

They have learning disabilities, they have behavioral disabilities, so they are going to have to receive special education, which drives way up the cost of educating a child.

And then there is the issue of the school-to-prison pipeline further down the road! So, in a lot of ways, the costs of this are really almost incalculable to the society, and that’s not to mention the fact that the water is so corrosive that it’s done tremendous amounts of damage to the infrastructure itself.

Mark Edwards, an expert at Virginia Tech, who’s been critically involved in testing the water in Flint, said that he estimates that its taken maybe a dozen years off the life of the infrastructure there.


And so that, again, is another way that everything they are claiming as savings are really just false savings — it’s just not readily apparent.

There are going to be costs down the road, associated with this — but those costs are in the tens, and tens, and tens of millions of dollars, so any claims that they’ve saved money is false.

They’ve cost a lot of money by making this terribly wrong-headed and calamitous decision to switch over to the river."



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And there it is. The decision was intentional and on purpose to keep Flint's residents to keep receiving toxic lead filled water from the city's water pipes.

Yet, many residents of Michigan still either believe Flint's Story would not happen in their City, Town, Village or County. Even worse, some are blaming Flint in General because they were forced to accept three Emergency Managers in a row by Governor Rick Snyder (R), that did nothing but lead poisoned children, adults, the elderly and pets in the former "Buick City".

Now that National News Resources like the Washington Post and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show started a bit late -- but started regardless, reporting Flint's Water Crisis as "New News", questions are beginning to arise on what entities, Governmental Officials and other resources has the ultimate responsibly.


The head of this snake of a Crisis starts right at the Top, on Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's desk. Remember when Snyder was dubbed by Michigan Mainstream Media Resource as a "viable" candidate for President of the United States?

If Snyder as top elected official in the State of Michigan would cover up, conspire or worse ignore the actions of many top officials in his administration Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) or the State's Health and Human Services Department (MHHSD),what would he have done as President of the United States.

All of it, not just Flint.

It is high time, in fact way past time that President Barack Obama's U.S. Department of Justice investigate what happened in Flint, Michigan. Our small resource called for this back in March 2015 and nothing has been done yet. 

"....An inherent need to change the cleanness of Water in Flint, along with the immediate involvement of Federal authorities to perform an investigation into all of the issues raised at this forum about city residents experiences with the Flint Water Department," IU News & Talk wrote back in March of 2015, plus include in its entirely the Governor's Office and Appointed Administrative Officials of MDEQ and MHHSD," Independent Underground News & Talk wrote in March 2015.
What else will it take and how many more individuals will bury their heads in the sand about the Toxic Health Hazard Water Situation that existed for nearly two years, in Flint, Michigan? 

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