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flint water

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

It’s not news that Flint has been struggling to get clean water into its homes and businesses, except maybe to Elon Musk.

He’s the visionary behind PayPal, Space X and Tesla. This week Musk tweeted he’s ready to deliver fresh water to the city. But the offer that has Flint officials wondering what, if anything, is next … looks awfully transparent to faithful Musk watchers. Same for people who know just what happened to the city and what it will take to fix it.

Mark Edwards is the Virginia Tech researcher who helped identify the scale of Flint’s problem. He told The Detroit News that Musk should be, quote, “more focused on meeting” his Model 3 production goals.

Chief National Guard Bureau / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Governor Snyder has decided the water in Flint is safe enough to end bottled water distribution, although the state will continue to distribute water filters to residents.

The Democrats are also holding an endorsement convention this weekend in Detroit. The most hotly contested race is for attorney general. Three Democrats – Pat Miles, Dana Nessel, and William Noakes – are running for the party nomination.

a cartoon of Governor Rick Snyder endorsing Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley
John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I don't blame politicians for avoiding the "politician" label. Politician, after all, is a dirty word. They are all rotten, lying, cheating, crummy, crooked politicians, right? Well... maybe not all. In this representative form of government, we all profess to love so much, good politicians are critical to its success. Good politicians are advocates of the people. They listen, they understand, they form a consensus, and then they lead.

 

Flint river
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Researchers have linked a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County to a switch to the Flint River for drinking water.

During the Legionnaires' disease outbreaks in 2014 and 2015, twelve people died and 79 people became sick.

flint mayor karen weaver
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency wrote a letter to the City of Flint and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality last week urging them to spend $100 million in federal funds for water infrastructure repair.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver responded Friday that the city plans to have any requested information available to the EPA in January.

With more than 6,200 lead and galvanized service lines replaced since its water crisis was exposed, Flint officials say they are on track to meet their overall goal by 2020.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said contractors have also made good progress inspecting homes where the type of service line was unknown.

“This is a significant accomplishment and it actually puts us ahead of schedule,” Weaver said.

Governor Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder for Michigan / Facebook Page

The ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Oversight Committee wants to subpoena Governor Rick Snyder. Rep. Elijah Cummins, D-Maryland, says the governor has not been forthcoming about when he first knew about a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County.

From Cummins’ letter to committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC):

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal judge may rule soon on whether to give the Flint city council more time decide on a future drinking water source for the city.

Tuesday, attorneys for the state of Michigan and city of Flint filed responses to a motion from the Flint city council asking for a delay in an order that it decide on a water source.

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Take the combined brainpower of Michigan State, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University and apply that to solving the water infrastructure problems we face not only in Flint, but across Michigan.

JORDANMRCAI / CREATIVE COMMONS

The political and legal drama continues to swirl around the beleaguered people of Flint.

The latest twist?

The state is suing the city of Flint for not approving a plan to get its drinking water from Detroit’s Great Lakes Water Authority.

downtown Flint street
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is suing Flint, alleging that the city council's failure to approve a recommendation to buy water long term from a Detroit-area system is endangering a public already troubled by a lead-tainted water crisis.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court.

(Read more about why the city council is delaying its vote.)

sign that says flint
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Six people who were arrested at a recent Flint town hall meeting will not face state charges.

The Genesee County prosecutor has declined to file charges, but the protesters could still be prosecuted by the city for misdemeanors.

Attorney Greg Gibbs of the ACLU represents five of the six people involved.  

The meeting was held in a church, and the arrests happened after one of them complained that town hall meetings should not be held in churches.

Gibbs says the arrests were wrong.  

Children at Cummings Early Education Center play at a water table using bottled water
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Every child who attends the Cummings Early Childhood Center in Flint lives in the city and was exposed to lead as a result of the Flint water crisis. That can have damaging effects on their development and growth. The Cummings daycare and preschool opened late last fall to help mitigate some of those effects on the youngest children. 

bottled water
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Flint residents just got a big proposed settlement from the city and the state over the water crisis. A settlement was announced late last week, but more details were released today.

The state is agreeing to pay at least $87 million to pay for at least 18,000 new water service lines in Flint. Under the proposal, which has to get final approval from a judge, the city would have to replace all lead and galvanized steel water lines in the next three years.

A table filled with bottles of Flint water (both clear and brown)
Flint Water Study / Facebook

A federal lawsuit over the state’s response to the Flint water crisis was back in court Tuesday, for arguments over whether the state has ignored a judge’s order to ensure Flint residents have access to safe drinking water.

In November, Judge David Lawson issued an injunction ordering the state to do two things: verify that all Flint households have properly-installed water filters; or, in cases where that’s not possible, deliver bottled water. The state wants that order dismissed.

Photo courtesy of Michigan's Attorney General office / michigan.gov

A federal judge has turned down Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request to file a brief supporting a group of pastors suing the state over the Flint water crisis. He says it’s Schuette’s job to represent the state in the case.

Schuette's office is defending the state and Governor Rick Snyder in the lawsuit. Schuette also tried to file a separate argument backing the group suing the state. Judge David Lawson rejected the request, saying Schuette can’t be on both sides of the case – that crosses an ethical line that undermines his client’s position.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder signed a bipartisan bill Friday that will require public water supply systems to tell customers about elevated lead levels. The law would require notification within three days of discovering lead levels are above the federal action level. Notification is already required – but the three-day rule is new.

Governor Rick Snyder said the bill is an important first step.

 

... and when did he know it?

Dec 21, 2016

When I learned yesterday morning that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had charged two Flint former emergency managers in connection with the water crisis, what popped first into my head was an image long ago of a young senator from Tennessee.

“What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Howard Baker had asked on national television more than 43 years ago, when Rick Snyder was in high school.

The country tore itself apart over the next 14 months over this, and we all know how Watergate turned out.

For many Flint residents, trips to a nearby water distribution center is a regular part of life.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals says the state must start delivering bottled water to households in Flint that don’t have working filters.

Fixing what caused Flint

Oct 21, 2016

For almost eight months, the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Crisis has been meeting, taking testimony, and struggling to find solutions.

Two days ago, they released a major report aimed at preventing further disasters. Unfortunately, they did this the day of the final presidential debate, which meant it got less than full attention. 


black and white bacteria under microscope
Wikimedia Commons

 

The federal government offered help with Flint’s Legionella outbreak, and the state of Michigan turned the offer down.

That’s what MLive reporter Ron Fonger has learned from Environmental Protection Agency documents released through the Freedom of Information Act.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

The U.S. Senate rejected a spending bill on Tuesday to keep the government running through December 9.

A majority of Democrats voted "no" because the bill didn't contain money to help Flint.

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Doug Tribou talk about the impact that could have on the upcoming election. They also discuss Donald Trump's Michigan references in the first presidential debate and calls to reduce recidivism from Hillary Clinton and Gov. Rick Snyder.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Retired Brigadier General Michael McDaniel was appointed to lead the effort to get lead water pipes out of Flint. 

That was back in February. 

Here we are, seven months later, and McDaniel has yet to be paid one thin dime for his work.

Marc Edwards, PhD, of Virginia Tech University, holds two vials of water, one from Flint and the other from Detroit. Edwards' research helped uncover the serious problems affecting Flint's water supply.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Just three days before the federal disaster declaration expires in Flint, Virginia Tech water expert Marc Edwards has released the results of the latest water tests in Flint.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody joined us to explain the results.

He said the results don't really reflect a thumbs up or thumbs down for Flint's water quality.

“It was more something in between," he said. "Marc Edwards talked about the results and how they show that lead levels are coming down, and now the city is somewhat below the federal action level. But, again, much like Flint water itself, the answer is rather murky.”

Filling a sample bottle.
Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech released its latest round of water tests from Flint homes today.

Here are the take-home messages:

Some good news: The team, led by former Flint resident LeeAnne Walters and the Flint citizen science group, sampled lead levels in water in 162 homes in July 2016. The 90th percentile level for lead was 13.9 ppb. This is below the EPA action level of 15ppb.

But there’s an important caveat here. Kelsey Pieper, a postdoctoral fellow at Virginia Tech, said their sampling pool is a random sample of homes and does not specifically target the highest risk homes for lead. So, while their results show the homes they tested are below the action level, it’s not an official result that would qualify under the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule.

Marc Edwards/Flint Water Study

Remember all that smelly, brownish-orange water that was coming out of people’s taps in Flint?

That was Flint’s water system – the actual pipes – corroding and breaking down, at a rate 15 times faster than they normally would have, says Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards. 

National Guardsmen delivered bottled water in Flint earlier this year.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Free bottled water, filters and cartridges aren’t going anywhere. 

That’s the message the state is trying to send Flint residents ahead of the looming deadline of August 14, when the federal emergency declaration for Flint ends.

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint's water rates are on track to double in the next five years – even though the city already pays some of the highest water rates in the country.

That was a big takeaway at a meeting today of the team charged with overseeing Flint’s recovery. 

Right now, the typical water bill in Flint is $53.84 a month. But it could be $101.95 in five years, if nothing changes.

That’s because of the growing gap between what Flint’s water system costs, and the city’s shrinking customer base.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

A lawsuit asking Flint to remove lead service lines free of charge for all of its water customers may proceed, according to a U.S. District Court ruling. The suit was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the ACLU of Michigan, Concerned Pastors for Social Action, and Flint resident Melissa Mays. 

Flint resident Michael Poole says he has enough water in his basement, "I could probably put it in a big ol' barrel and take a shower for days."
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Michael Poole doesn’t buy the line that filtered tap water is safe for him and his neighbors to drink.

“There may be a day when I might be able to trust” the water, he says. “But until then, I’m getting this right here.”

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