Today the governor accepted the resignations of two MDEQ employees and we expect more will follow. We take no joy from the misfortune of others–but in this case the resignations are both justified and necessary.
As documented previously, Flintwaterstudy.org was conceived and launched after an August 4th phone call that we received from a distraught Lee-Anne Walters.
During the call Ms. Walters detailed how smirking MDEQ employees, dismissed perfectly legitimate scientific concerns expressed by herself and Melissa Mays regarding dangers of high lead in the water to Flint’s children. The MDEQ employees also bragged about “handling” a heroic EPA employee (Miguel Del Toral), who put his career on the line to write a memo detailing Flint’s water lead problems and MDEQ’s illegal actions. We contributed our data on Ms. Walters hazardous waste levels of lead to Del Toral’s memo, and other insights, and we figured that with the memo appropriate state and federal resources would be mobilized. It turns out they were–but only to cover the memo up and to discredit Del Toral. Tragically, the memo would have to be “vetted” in the blood lead of Flint’s children, before its recommendations were taken seriously.
Our goal was “to help the citizens of Flint deal with the lead-in-water crisis that MDEQ created, and to correct false statements from uncaring agencies that have left Flint’s children in harm’s way.” We worked with all parties whenever it was possible to do so, and we stood up on behalf of Flint residents whenever it was necessary. A miracle was in progress. People from all walks of life also did so.
Throughout 2015, as the public raised concerns and as independent studies and testing were conducted and brought to the attention of MDEQ, the agency’s response was often one of aggressive dismissal, belittlement, and attempts to discredit these efforts and the individuals involved. We find both the tone and substance of many MDEQ public statements to be completely unacceptable… What is disturbing about MDEQ’s responses….is their persistent tone of scorn and derision. In fact, the MDEQ seems to have been more determined to discredit the work of others—who ultimately proved to be right—than to pursue its own oversight responsibility……
The City of Flint’s water customers—fellow Michigan citizens—were needlessly and tragically exposed to toxic levels of lead through their drinking water supply. They deserve a commitment to properly assess responsibility and ensure accountability. They also deserve a commitment to needed mitigation in both the short and long term. The Flint water crisis never should have happened. Having failed to prevent it, state government should coordinate a sustained, public-‐health-‐focused response to remedy, to the fullest extent possible, the impacts on the Flint community.
— Flint Water Advisory Task Force. 12/29/2015
Curt Guyette of ACLU-Michigan, who first publicized Del Toral’s memo, did more investigative reporting alongside us exposing serious problems with sampling conducted by the city and state. Residents of Flint led by Walters and Mays and many others, collected over 800 samples from over 270 Flint homes distributed throughout the city, exposing the extent and severity of the water lead problem. When those results were posted on-line, a team at Hurley Medical Center led by Mona Hanna-Attisha, linked neighborhoods with the highest water lead to much higher incidence of childhood lead poisoning. The Hurley team was backed up by the county health department and a coalition of health professionals, who pressed state officials to “put up or shut up” regarding blood lead studies supposedly proving there was no problem.
Throughout, the media including reporters at Michigan Radio, Flint Journal, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and local Flint ABC, NBC and more recently MSNBC stepped up with outstanding reporting. State Senator Ananich and Congressman Kildee also played decisive leadership roles. This is but a partial list, but you get the idea. A critical mass of moral courage was achieved in Flint, that got Flint kids out of harm’s way, in spite of the best (or worst) efforts of some uncaring and powerful government agencies. With this crew, no false statement went unchallenged for long, and there were so many of them!
No one knew better than Flint residents, that theirs was to be a long and difficult fight. We thank everyone who helped their heroic effort. We also want to thank Governor Snyder, who appointed a first rate Task Force to examine the problem, and decisively acted on their advice.
Below is the letter from the Flint Water Advisory Task Force that prompted the governor’s actions today.
Primary Author: Dr. Marc Edwards
Acknowledgements: Siddhartha Roy