Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has called up members of the Michigan National Guard to help distribute bottled, filters and other supplies to residents in Flint dealing with water highly contaminated with lead.
What happened to Flint’s water supply?
Flint, Michigan gained most of its fame for being the home to activist Michael Moore and the subject of the documentary “Roger & Me” which showed what happened to Flint following General Motors‘ closing of its factories there effectively killing the city of nearly 100,000.
Flint is located about 70 miles from the greatest source of fresh water in the world, the Great Lakes. However, nearly two years ago while in a state of financial emergency, in order to save money, the city decided that it would change its water supply to the notoriously filthy Flint River in order to save money while waiting for a state project to get Flint water from Lake Huron that was expected to take about two years.
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“We thought it was a joke,” said Rhonda Kelso, a long-time Flint resident told CNN. “People my age and older, thought ‘They’re not going to do that.’ ”
Shortly after the switch, residents water began coming in through the taps not clear, but brown. The reason for the color change is essentially one-fold. City officials failed to treat the water with anti-corrosives that would have cost $100 a day. As a result the water running through the iron water mains picked up both the brown color and a dangerously high amount of lead.
National Guard to the rescue in Flint?
No. Hardly. While the 30 National Guardsmen are expected to be in place by Friday following today’s call-up, let’s face it, it’s simply 30 bodies to help distribute water and supplies to the estimated 30,000 households in the perpetually beleaguered industrial city of 99,000. And the call-up is awfully late as the crisis has been going on since October.
In addition to the call up the Michigan National Guard, Governor Snyder also requested help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate the efforts of other federal agencies looking to fix a problem that has been called a “human rights violation” and a “Katrina-like situation.”
Residents are so angry with the problem that leaves many unable to bathe or shower and certainly unable to drink the water, that it’s been determined that American Red Cross volunteers and others should be escorted by local, state and now federal police and military units.
With the arrival of the National Guard troops, Red Cross volunteers will now go door-to-door to distribute supplies rather than staffing sites where residents can pick up bottled water, filters, and testing kits.
Police and politicians speak to the Flint crisis
Yesterday saw state police and Genesee Countain sheriff’s deputies escorting eight distribution teams through the city while braving the freezing cold and snow. Genesee County sheriff’s Capt. Casey Tafoya said Tuesday that he hoped the teams would get to 500 to 600 houses per day.
“We plan to go every day this week, and we’ll continue until everyone has safe drinking water,” state police Lt. Dave Kaiser said in his own press conference.
While Flint has returned to getting its water from the bankrupt Detroit water system, many fear that the damage to the pipes will show for some time as they are flushed out with cleaner water.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat who represents Flint in the House of Representatives said: “It is the state’s ultimate responsibility to act and make it right. Flint residents are the victims in this crisis and they deserve a more urgent response equal to the gravity of this crisis.”
“I trust the good men and women of the National Guard will jump-start the Snyder administration’s lackluster response to this public health crisis,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said in a statement. “Sadly, myself and many leaders of my community have advocated for this type of response for months.”
Coincidence or cover-up in Flint City Hall Break-In?
Flint, Michigan has a above average crime rate, so robberies do happen on a daily basis. However, on January 11th it was confirmed that an office in City Hall where some water records were kept was broken into over the holidays. Given the brown water running out of Flint taps, it was easy for many to scream a cover up was underway.
“The office that was broken into is where some water files are kept,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said. “However, at this point it’s hard to tell if any files were taken. The only thing we know for sure was stolen is a TV.”
The confirmation of the break-in came less than a week after U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told reporters that a federal investigation was underway to look into Flint’s water crisis.