Flint Water Crisis

Flint Lead Poisoning: The Anatomy of Government Failure

Sorry libs, its not government austerity but government that's the problem

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In the simple morality tale that is modern mainstream liberalism, government spending leads to good things and

Water Pollution
Faisal Akram Ether via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

cutting government spending leads to bad things. So when news broke that Flint, Michigan's, water system was laced with lead and may have poisoned up to 2 percent of city residents, including 23 children, they already knew the cause: Spending cuts imposed on the city by the state emergency manager.

The Detroit Free Press lectured Governor Rick Snyder, the villain in liberal central casting who appointed the manager, thusly: "To lead the state, a balanced budget is not sufficient…He has got to see people, not sums, as the bottom line of the state balance sheet." Meanwhile, a headline in Vox declared, "Flint, Michigan, tried to save money on water. Now its children have food lead poisoning." And The Week's Ryan Cooper accused Flint of poisoning its own residents to save a few bucks. "This is a stark demonstration of austerity's false economy."

A dissection of the events, however, suggests that it isn't government austerity that  is responsible for the debacle but the government itself. And at every level: local, state, federal, elected officials, administrative agencies, you name it, I note in my column at The Week.

Here's how:

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency that is responsible for implementing federal EPA environmental standards and ensure water standards, ignored citizen concerns that there was something wrong with the water they were getting from the new Flint River water system. The city had temporarily switched to this system after deciding against renewing a 30-year contract with its existing supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department that wanted Flint to pay higher rates and more stranded costs. (This was like asking someone who is struggling to prevent the roof on his/her house from collapsing to pay for a lavish home insurance policy.)

The EPA allowed the DEQ to perform a faulty test to measure water quality that totally failed to catch the problem. That's not all that the EPA did wrong, however. Even after it realized that the DEQ wasn't taking a simple step necessary to prevent lead poisoning – namely adding phosphorous – it did absolutely nothing. It didn't go public with this information; it didn't warn residents that they should take steps to protect themselves. It basically fiddled as Flint residents were getting poisoned. What's even more infuriating? It would have cost less than $50,000 annually to add the phosphorous.

The local mayor was even worse than the EPA. If the EPA passively allowed residents to poison themselves, the mayor actively encouraged them to do so. He told them that there was nothing wrong with the water and they'd be wasting their "precious" money by buying bottled water.  This, incidentally, was after GM stopped using this water because it was corroding auto parts.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services dismissed tests showing a spike in lead levels in blood tests of local residents after the switch to Flint River as a "seasonal anomaly."

All of this shows, I note in my column at The Week, the Flint debacle is not the fault of government austerity — but government incompetence, negligence, and rank stupidity on the very part of those agencies that are entrusted with public health. "And there is no amount of government spending that can fix that."

Go here to read the whole thing.

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  1. I have my own narrative.

    To make sure the pubsec employees and unions remained in catnip, the local officials compromised on safety and poisoned its residents.

    1. Sounds about right.

      “The government of Flint had a choice: clean water for Flint, or fat pensions for government employees. They made their choice, and now you get to live with it.”

      1. But those retirees had been public employees who had signed sooper dooper social contracts and deserved their pensions! See, austerity once again reaered its ugly head to bash public employee unions!

      2. Sounds like the plaintiffs’ closing remarks in a would-be class action. I wonder if Michigan allows for tort actions against public employees.

    2. “To make sure the pubsec employees and unions remained in catnip, the local officials compromised on safety and poisoned its residents.”

      That’s the way I see it.
      A manager is appointed to cut costs , and after examining all of the possibilities, he decides poisoning the population is the best.
      The population (and assorted pundits) turn around and scream “RETHUGLICANS!”

  2. Vox declared, “Flint, Michigan, tried to save money on water. Now its children have food poisoning.”

    Lead is a food? Well, maybe in the Vox lunchroom.

    1. They’re big on nostalgia, and you can guess what they all ate as kids…

      1. Mmm, paint chips.

  3. So basically anything that happens bad…Ryan Cooper can blame austerity

    1. and republicans. Lets not forget them. The press has managed to see past an ocean of Democrats when looking for blame and found the one lone Republican that they could hang all the blame on.

      1. The most clear incidence of this is Baltimore. Black city council, black mayor, black police chief, majority minority police department, statewide Democratic dominance for decades. Somehow that whole fiasco was still blamed on evil white conservative men.

        1. Same thing in California ? Democrats had a supermajority in the State Assembly but couldn’t pass anything and blamed it all on the Republicans.

          Los Angeles City Council has 14 Democrats and 1 Republican ? and every failure is blamed on the 1 Republican.

          1. Ha! In SF, there are NO rethugs in the entire city government, and it’s STILL their fault! Bush and Reagan.

            1. They are still blaming a guy who has been out of office for twenty-seven years?

  4. The city had temporarily switched to this system after deciding against renewing a 30-year contract with its existing supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department that wanted Flint to pay higher rates and more stranded costs.

    Didn’t we establish yesterday that DWSD terminated the contract?

    1. So when Flint started looking for an alternative to Detroit, they got cut off before the alternative was ready?

      1. I’ve heard that reported.

      2. Doesn’t make sense does it… until you consider that if Flint can get their own water they go from customer to competitor; and it sounds like Detroit has been using their bulk customers to make up for the fact that they don’t have many local customers.

  5. Well, it is the failure of one party, overwhelmingly.

    And you can rest assured that it’s not the party who only has a single individual involved in this whole sorry tale.

    Democrats really are much worse than republicans. I don’t know how people here deny it so often, but if you want to take this country back, it’s going to be long, slow process of electing the best republican you can, in every election, every time. Yeah a lot of them suck, and I probably wouldn’t vote for Lindsey Graham, but short of that, it’s your moral obligation to vote straight-ticket R if you actually value reduction in gov’t.

    1. Unsupported assertion. And there is plenty of evidence that it is dead wrong.

      1. Jimbo is playing a character in an extended performance art piece. Not really sure why since we have more than enough commenters around here saying those exact things without a hint of irony. He used to be a standup guy but now he’s just another tedious troll. Sometimes the inscrutability of other minds is really…not that interesting.

        1. . He used to be a standup guy but now he’s just another tedious troll.

          Maybe he’s mad as hell and he’s not gonna take it anymore…

    2. The difference between the Heffalumps and Woozles is that the Heffalumps don’t lie about how much they’ll respect you in the morning.

      Fuck that. I’ll vote Cthulu. Vote for less evil, psshhh, crank the dial up to eleven and break that fucker off, I say. There is no moral obligation to vote for petty evil, the entire idea is contradictory.

      1. If you haven’t checked out the Cthulhu for President website, its really pretty good. Great swag, too.

        https://cthulhuforamerica.com/

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          All those TRUMPites look like pikers, compared to my guy.

  6. It’s funny how the effects of this “austerity” operated in a sort of ‘austerity vacuum’.

    Someone in Flint, during the decision to save a dollar, looked at the water source and said, “Meh, it’ll be fine”. Are the demands of an austere budget so powerful that multiple local officials ignored the obvious problems?

    I mean, I can think of all kinds of things that might make me compromise quality to save a dollar, but these seemed to be bright-line legal requirements– and even if you forgive the ‘fog of war’ that occurs in a bureaucracy, the EPA knew what was going on and held off acting until (according to the reports I’ve heard) could assess the legal options. That’s not an ‘austerity’ issue, that’s a government actor unwilling to take quick action against another government actor, presumably because government actor. Or something.

    The EPA sure moves quickly against a young couple trying to build a cabin in the woods, though.

    1. According to the Drain Commissioner of Cheboygan County (MI), the Drain Commissioner of Genesee County (where Flint is located) issued an ultimatum to Flint: sign up for Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) in two weeks or never.

      The KWA was established because Detroit charged premiums for Flint to use its water ? which Flint resold to Genesee and Cheboygan Counties at a profit. Genesee and Cheboygan Counties, along with a couple other counties, formed the KWA to buying the marked up water from Flint. When they did, Flint’s revenues went down.

      Joining the KWA 3 years before the pipeline was completed was the austerity Flint chose ? not switching to the Flint River. Detroit Water and Sewage Department retaliated to joining the KWA by terminating the contract to supply water to Flint, leaving Flint without water from 2014 to 2016.

      Without Detroit water, Flint had to switch to their backup water supply ? the Flint River which Flint water engineers didn’t adequately treat.

      1. Oh, yeah, forgot this:

        There’s an office called “Drain Commissioner”?

        1. That ws the first thing my eyes stared at for an extended period before reading the rest of the sordid tale. The libertarian in my runs deep.

    2. The river water is fine. If treated correctly.

      1. Which the DEQ and EPA downplayed when it was suggested in 2013.

    3. They would have acted swiftly if a private concern were responsible for Flint’s water.

    4. the EPA knew what was going on and held off acting until (according to the reports I’ve heard) could assess the legal options

      Assessing every possible legal option sounds like the most expensive approach, not the austere approach.

    5. “That’s not an ‘austerity’ issue, that’s a government actor unwilling to take quick action against another government actor, presumably because government actor.”

      Professional courtesy.

  7. Has anyone else read Ryan Cooper before? He seems like one of these clickbait offer very little to no substance blame/cry about team red….a mini Krugman if you will

    1. Lol and to confirm it…he has a recent article saying the stimulus didn’t do anything because it wasn’t enough. And blamed the sluggish economy on austerity.

  8. I know of a place in Utah, where they the EPA requires some ridiculous tests.

    For one, the naturally occurring concentration of arsenic in the stream they discharge into is higher than the EPA standard, but the water 50 feet down from the emission point is supposed to be tested by the EPA’s arsenic standard. You can’t clean arsenic from a river out by adding effluent if that only makes up a small portion of the stream flow. There just isn’t enough effluent to accomplish that. What are they supposed to do about that? You’re gonna hold this water utility responsible for making the river downstream cleaner from arsenic than it can possibly be?

    The second thing they do, there’s a test required by the EPA where you put x number of fish into water collected 50 feet downstream from the discharge point. Fewer than x number of the fish are supposed to die within a certain amount of time in order to pass the test. The species of fish the EPA requires them to use is a freshwater fish, but the stream they send their effluent into is an estuary of the Great Salt Lake. It’s salty water, so the fish die immediately every time they do the test.

    1. Just following the regulations to the letter!

    2. What do you mean “one size does NOT fit all”?!

    3. The second thing they do, there’s a test required by the EPA where you put x number of fish into water collected 50 feet downstream from the discharge point. Fewer than x number of the fish are supposed to die within a certain amount of time in order to pass the test. The species of fish the EPA requires them to use is a freshwater fish, but the stream they send their effluent into is an estuary of the Great Salt Lake. It’s salty water, so the fish die immediately every time they do the test.

      I knew the EPA was stupid, but fuck me, that’s go to be some kind of record, even by bureaucratic standards.

      1. Stupid? The entire purpose is revenue from fines for failed tests. Design a test with a 100% failure rate and it’s bonus time baby!

  9. The EPA keeps requiring them to run the tests anyway and apply for exceptions every time they fail the tests. That isn’t just mean to fish and costly to water consumers and tax payers. It also means that legitimate failures may be masked by unnecessary routine tests that everyone involved expects to fail. These water tests have been failing daily for decades. At some point, I’m sure, everybody stops taking the failures seriously. Until dozens of people get Legionnaires’ disease, I guess?

  10. “The city had temporarily switched to this system after deciding against renewing a 30-year contract with its existing supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department that wanted Flint to pay higher rates and more stranded costs.”

    So, one government negotiating with another government? I’m sure there’s absolutely no waste inherent in those kinds of relationships, particularly when you’re talking about multi-decade contracts in a ‘marketplace’ as competitive and dynamic as “Water Utilities”.

    With all of these municipalities dancing on the brink of their own insolvency, i can imagine any negotiated deals between them would amount to buck-passing exercises where one agency basically passes all its future problems onto some other agency/municipality, and makes them ‘own it’ in perpetuity. And the terms of the deals aren’t based around meeting real-needs in any cost-effective way, but rather protecting their respective bureaucracies from the obvious threats of budget & staff reductions.

    These kinds of details are so deathly-boring that the narrative of “corporate cost cutting” being to blame will persist regardless

    1. When a public employee union in one part of the government is in conflict with a public employee union in another part of the government, there’s really only one reasonable thing to do.

      Vote for Democrats even harder.

      And that’s because it was all about racism. I know because the New York Times said so, in so many words, and if what the New York Times says confirms my preexisting biases, then it must be true.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01…..nyder.html

    2. Buck passing is a good way to put it ? Detroit was generating revenue by selling water to Flint and Flint was generating revenue by reselling that water to local counties.

      The counties got sick of the rate increases and established their own water district. They gave Flint an ultimatum to join at a lower cost that Detroit and the EM, governor, and city council all gave their blessing.

      Detroit retaliated by cutting off the water.

      And we’re blaming the governor, austerity, and corporations?

      1. Shyeah. I mean, it’d be a bit difficult to profit from their ridiculous cock-ups otherwise.

      2. Yes, because the emergency manager (an office which is a horrible affront to local control of public services and democracy) appointed by the governor did not stop the Flint government from following through on the decision to use Flint River water.

        Got that?

        1. If, instead, the city had been placed into receivership and the court appointed a receiver who made the same decision, would we be blaming the governor?

          1. As long as the judge was a Republican.

    3. From the article linked above:

      “An interviewer, Mika Brzezinski, cited a New York Times article that asked, “If Flint were rich and mostly white, would Michigan’s state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water?” Many Flint residents, and Democratic politicians including Hillary Clinton and Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, have said the answer is yes.”

      . . . and what else does anyone really need to know?

      1. “An interviewer, Mika Brzezinski, cited a New York Times article that asked, “If Flint were rich and mostly white, would Michigan’s state government and the federal EPA have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water?

        FTFY

      2. If Flint were rich (regardless of color), I imagine the affected families would have just paid to get their pipes replaced with ones that wouldn’t poison their kids.

  11. The city had temporarily switched to this system after deciding against renewing a 30-year contract with its existing supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department that wanted Flint to pay higher rates and more stranded costs.

    Sounds like the Detroit Water and Sewage Department wanted more revenue, or, as some would say, “saving money.”

    I don’t get why proggies are going with the “Government tried to save money, and bad things happened” line.

    Proggies have been promising that government pays less and saves money for things all the time. They claim it’s an advantage: government can declare itself a monopsony and use that advantage as the ultimate price setter/negotiator. See healthcare, net neutrality, etc.

    Of course, taken to it’s logical conclusion, price setting takes certain goods and services off the table, instead of just making them cheaper.

    Somehow, they don’t whine about austerity when they promise utopian $$ savings with absolutely no trade-offs.

    Anyway, government trying to save money by poisoning residents: isn’t that the kind of thing horrible corporations are supposed to do all the time, therefore, government? Ah, well.

    1. I don’t get why proggies are going with the “Government tried to save money, and bad things happened” line.

      Proggies have been promising that government pays less and saves money for things all the time. They claim it’s an advantage: government can declare itself a monopsony and use that advantage as the ultimate price setter/negotiator.

      Surely you’re not expecting any kind of consistency out of these shitstains are you? There’s RETHUGLIKKKANZ and AWESTERITEE to blaim!

      Principals over principles.

      1. That is why they have zero cred with me.

  12. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services dismissed tests showing a spike in lead levels in blood tests of local residents after the switch to Flint River as a “seasonal anomaly.”

    Is that supposed to make it OK, then?

    1. Well, it’s more OK than Flint’s seasonal explosions. And the problems that ensued when they switched public transportation to Four Horsemen Services.

  13. PoliticsUSA has an article titled “Republicans laughably blame Democrats for Flint’s problems”. Their lack of self awareness is amusing.

    1. I wish there was commenting. I’d like to copy and paste a section from the article and an article from 2013 and ask why the story changed from 2013 to today.

  14. So, the GF was working at UM Flint until she moved out here in June.
    Apparently, the state ordered the kitchen not to use the water for cooking. Water chokers were put everywhere, and they were told not to use the drinking fountains.
    I don’t know if the students were also warned.

  15. Water coolers, of course

    1. I figgered that was one of them euphemisms. Kids these days. . . .

      1. I figgered that was one of them euphemisms

        Something to do with “water sports” and choke sex…

  16. The local mayor was even worse than the EPA. If the EPA passively allowed residents to poison themselves, the mayor actively encouraged them to do so. He told them that there was nothing wrong with the water and they’d be wasting their “precious” money by buying bottled water.

    Well, if they’d “wasted their precious money” on bottled water, then they wouldn’t have been using as much city water, which means lower water bills for them, and less revenue for the city. Worse than that, they would have instead been giving their “recious money” to EVUL KKKORPORASHUNZ instead of their King. Those residents who continued to consume, and pay for, Flint’s public water were merely doing their patriotic duty by poisoning themselves and their children for THE GREATER GOOD. /sarc

  17. And what about the officials who knew the water wasn’t safe? Not warning people would seem like a crime, to me. And if people die because of it, it’s at least manslaughter.

    1. That only applies to kochprorations, duh.

      Or Republicans. But I repeat myself.

      /sarc

  18. Flint, Michigan’s, water system was laced with lead

    That is a lie.

    The water SYSTEM is NOT laced with lead. Individual residences have lead pipes and Flint’s water no longer contains additives to prevent lead corrosion. Flint’s government failed to tell its residents of that important fact.

  19. Sorry Reason, but I have it on good authority from a political cartoon in The Missoulian today that a lack of government regulations caused this crisis.

    1. Nonsense! I have it on better authority that the absence of Common Sense Gun Control is to blame.

  20. Not to be rude, but I bet 10 or 20 more government agencies would have caught the problem.

    1. Yes, and they still wouldn’t have done anything about it

      1. Naturally. You need 10 or 20 more other government agencies to do anything about it. And 10 or 20 more government agencies to tell the other ones to do anything about it.

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  34. I live in Michigan. We have the best Governor we’ve had in decades ever since Granholm left us with a huge mess and fled to Berkley like the Leftist crook she is. While I feel for the people of flint, all of these hit-pieces by the liberal media can fuck right off.

    Michigan has been turning from a Blue to Red state now for years and it’s almost done. This has the left in a panic whom are jumping at the opportunity to screw over our otherwise very successful, moderate, responsible, and humble governor Snyder. Thanks to Democrat corruption Detroit is a shit hole Mad Max wouldn’t traverse, along with other bastions of welfare and filth like Pontiac, East Lansing, Saginaw, and oh yes…. FLINT.

    They had a emergency manager assigned to them for a reason. They lost total control and gave away some much FREE STUFF while screwing themselves, someone had to step in. Unfortunately Snyder put too much trust in his people, and they done goofed. Not Snyder, but his people. Now he’s an honorable man so he says the buck stops with him. Good on him for that. It won’t stop the spineless liberals from trying to capitalize on his misfortune tho. Like vultures, they see meat on the bone and are circling.

    I’ll be waiting with my shotgun to blast down any HACKS like Shikha Dalmia who’s name sounds like an Ethiopian abortion procedure from slandering the truth and spreading lies like this garbage article.

    1. (ok well the shotgun thing was purely figurative. I don’t even own a gun)

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