Flint

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s new police and fire chiefs are now on the job.

The city’s state oversight board today approved hiring Tim Johnson as Flint’s new top cop and Raymond Barton as Flint’s new fire chief.

Barton is promising changes to the way the city’s undermanned fire department is deployed. He says his predecessor, David Cox, asked too much of Flint’s firefighters.

“Sometimes he put a lot of stress on the firefighters having them work with less,” says Barton.

Jack Lessenberry.
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry said the recent shooting in Kalamazoo won't prompt legislation on gun control any time soon, he explained the controversial "gag order" law and gave an update on Flint and Detroit


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says his office will release all Flint-related emails dating back to the beginning of his administration in 2011, including the governor’s emails and staff emails.

Gov. Snyder says they’ll come soon – but has not given a specific date and time.

Snyder says attorneys need to look over the emails and remove any documents that would normally be exempt from public information requests. The governor is releasing the documents voluntarily, as his office is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Mark Brush

The Flint water crisis has elicited strong reactions from people all over the world. Whether that’s anger, disbelief, compassion, heartbreak or some combination of all those things, many people want to help.

Carrie Metz-Caporusso is a tattoo artist in Ann Arbor and she came up with an unusual idea for a Flint fundraiser.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new round of testing could show if the amount of lead in Flint’s drinking water is declining.

Virginia Tech researchers will send testing kits to people in Flint this week. The researchers spent Friday assembling 300 kits.  

Researcher Siddhartha Roy says they are testing the same homes they did back in August and September.  Those tests revealed unsafe levels of lead.

They also expect to see lower lead levels.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A top state official says people in Flint are relying more and more on water filters. He says that is reducing demand for bottled water.

In response to Flint’s water crisis, six weeks ago the state started stocking distribution centers in Flint with bottled water, filters and lead testing kits.  

But demand at the centers is down significantly. For example, demand for bottled water is now less than a third of its peak. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 

 

State and local officials still are not doing enough to fix problems that caused lead pollution of drinking water in Flint, including having enough qualified workers to make sure the city water system functions adequately, a federal regulator said Friday.

 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is getting tens of millions of dollars from the federal government to tear down blighted buildings.

Last year, Congress approved spending $2 billion to fund blight elimination programs nationwide. 

The U.S. Department of Treasury today says Michigan is eligible for more than $300 million from the Hardest Hit fund. Nearly $75 million is available immediately.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, has been among those fighting for the blight money.

The Flint River
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In one of the worst outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in U.S. history, the city of Flint suffered nine deaths as a result. A Flint official reported the problem to the Centers for Disease Control, but the CDC was unable to move forward with an investigation. The reason? The state of Michigan declined the federal agency's assistance.

The official who reported the outbreak was Jim Henry, the Genesee County environmental health supervisor. He joined Stateside to explain what happened and how, he says, those nine deaths could have been prevented.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is a step closer to getting money from the state to replace lead service lines.

Governor Snyder says the state has approved a grant request from the city.

“That frees up $2 million that could be … several hundred lead service line replacements,” says Snyder.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says this is a “positive step.”

Ann Arbor resident Michael Hood from Crossing Water
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

One positive aspect of the Flint water crisis has been the thousands of people from across Michigan, and around the country, who have stepped forward to help – whether donating to various charities or stepping up to help first-hand.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Next week, crews will start digging up lead pipes in Flint.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says a training exercise will take place next week for city crews to learn how to remove lead service lines. 

It’s a step in a process that may end with replacing thousands of lead pipes. 

Jack Lessenberry.
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry talks about Flint's role in the democratic race for president, and Governor Snyder volunteering to testify about the Flint water crisis in front of Congress. Lessenberry also talks about Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's fight against the Obama administration's rules for Michigan to cut carbon emissions from power plants by 31 percent by 2030. 


Tap water in a Flint hospital on Oct. 16, 2015.
Joyce Zhu / Flintwaterstudy.org

One of the most critical points in discovering the full extent of Flint’s water crisis was a study of blood-lead levels in Flint children.

That study, by pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, found that after the city switched to the Flint River for its drinking water, lead levels in the blood of Flint’s kids doubled. Since then, Hanna-Attisha has become internationally famous, using the attention to fight for the lead-poisoned children of Flint.

But it’s possible she wouldn't have thought to check those blood-lead levels without the help of an old friend from the ninth grade.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says she didn’t think Friday was “a bad time” to fire three top city officials.

Some have questioned the timing of Weaver’s decision to let go of Flint Police Chief James Tolbert, Fire Chief David Cox and City Administrator Natasha Henderson last week.

This comes as the city struggles with its drinking water crisis.

“I can’t wait for the water crisis to be ended because we don’t know when that will happen,” says Weaver. 

The three officials were hired by Flint’s former emergency managers.

Photo by Marcin Szczepanski

The Next Idea

There are lingering fears that nothing will be the same in Flint. But maybe things shouldn’t be the same. What if there is a better way for Flint and other cities to harvest and deliver life-enhancing water?

People across the nation are judging Flint as an epic failure of leadership and poor choices. There is no doubt that Flint’s water crisis is an unqualified failure of democracy, but it is also a century-old failure of design and systems thinking.     

Flickr user Michigan Municipal League/Flickr

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is asking the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage to people under 21 and pregnant women who have been exposed to Flint's lead-contaminated water.

In a statement released Sunday, Snyder says about 15,000 more Flint residents would benefit if the government approves the request. The governor says the state would help by lining up doctors and behavioral health specialists and providing other services.

A Flint water protest
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. - A newly released email shows that shortly before Flint began drawing its drinking water from the Flint River, an official with the city water plant feared things were moving too quickly.

Mike Glasgow was laboratory and water quality supervisor on April 17, 2014, when he sent a message to officials with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Glasgow said people above him were planning to distribute water "ASAP." But he said he still needed time to train more staffers and update monitoring plans.

Guy Williams and Lester Graham
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Correction for the audio interview: 48217 is the most polluted ZIP code in Michigan (as stated), but the Delray neighborhood is in the neighboring ZIP code. It is the second most polluted.

The Flint water crisis has brought attention to a larger issue: why do we see more contamination and pollution issues in areas where poor people and, often, people of color live?

Flint’s water is just the tip of the iceberg. Flint has been an industrial city for generations, and still suffers from the lingering pollution left behind by over a century’s worth of factories. Much of the city’s housing was built using lead-based products like paint.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The heads of Flint's police and fire departments are out of those jobs.

Mayor Karen Weaver said Friday in a press release she's restructuring city operations and has accepted the resignations of Police Chief James Tolbert and Fire Chief David Cox Jr. She's also fired City Administrator Natasha Henderson.

“I’m doing what I told the people who voted for me that I would do," says Weaver, "My focus is moving the City of Flint forward and I feel these personnel changes are necessary to keep us on the right path.”

The country's two most vacant cities are in Michigan

Feb 11, 2016
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report from Realty Trac says Flint is the most vacant city in the nation, and Detroit isn't far behind.

According to the report, 7.5 percent of homes in Flint are vacant. Detroit comes in second at 5.3 percent.

Flint officials testify at Congressional hearing

Feb 10, 2016
sign in Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Democrats in Congress held hearings today about the Flint water crisis.

Public health experts and Flint officials appeared in front of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

Flint officials testified they need federal money to help address the short and long-term consequences of lead in Flint's water supply. They said state funds are not enough. 

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha directs the Pediatric Residency Program at Hurley Medical Center in Flint. She said educational, nutritional, physical and mental health services must begin immediately.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Luke Waid says he was stunned when he got the results from his daughter Sophia's 1-year check-up.

It was August 2014, and a blood test revealed a lead level of 14 micrograms per deciliter. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control considers 5 "high." 

Six months earlier, Sophia's blood-lead level had been fine, Waid says. Then, in April of 2014, Flint started pumping its drinking water from the Flint River. Four months after that, her lead level spiked.

The following month, in September, Waid says doctors did a follow-up test, just to be certain. Same result.

sign in Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

If you were to ask the average Michigander what the origins of Flint’s downfall were, you might get a few different answers. Some of those answers would likely be related to the auto industry – specifically, when General Motors left the city in the 1980s.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says the state is working with two Flint organizations to hire 50 residents who will help test the city's water for lead contamination.

Snyder announced Monday that Orchards Children's Services and the Flint YMCA's Safe Places Program will help hire and train city residents this month.

More residents may be hired as needed.

The Republican governor says in a press release that water testing teams need more people to get the job done, and "no one is better suited to help the city bounce back."

Two young protesters at City Hall last week. The council floated a draft resolution to ask the city to stop charging people for water.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

But here’s the thing: the city council doesn’t really have the power to actually force the city to stop billing people for their water.

That’s because big financial decisions (and this one would be a doozy) still have to be okayed by a state-appointed board, called the Receivership Transition Advisory Board.

They’re the guys the state put in place after the Emergency Manager left in April 2015.

Technically, that’s when Flint “transitioned back to local control,” according to the state, but there’s still a lot of limitations on what local officials can actually do.

Michigan presidential primary voters will head to the polls a month from tomorrow. But, if you think the action is waiting until then, think again.

Two dogs in Flint test positive for lead toxicity

Feb 7, 2016
A husky/malamute mix dog
bullcitydogs / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Officials are reminding people to make sure pets aren't drinking unfiltered Flint tap water, after two area dogs tested positive for lead toxicity in recent months.

State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill says the tests were confirmed in October 2015 and January 2016.

He said both dogs, a stray and a family pet, could've been exposed to Flint's lead-tainted water.

Both dogs are still alive.

Symptoms of lead exposure in pets vary greatly and can include vomiting, diarrhea and changes in behavior.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

  FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says he's reaching out to Flint's Latino community to make sure residents are getting bottled water and filters during the city's lead-contamination crisis.

  The governor on Friday visited Our Lady Guadalupe Catholic Church, where volunteers are distributing water and filters to the church's predominantly Latino parishioners.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint businesses are now able to apply for federal disaster loans.

But it may not be the help that some businesses need.

The Small Business Administration approved the governor’s economic disaster declaration on Friday.

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