On Wednesday, the Flint Water Advisory Task Force appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued a critique of the state government at multiple levels, calling out the “failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction and environmental injustice” that led to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
“It was a mixture of ignorance, incompetence, and arrogance by many decision-makers that created a toxic and tragic situation that produced the Flint water crisis,” said Chris Kolb, task force co-chair and former Democratic State Representative.
The task force pointed in particular to the emergency managers appointed by the Republican governor as having massively mishandled the crisis.
“Emergency managers made key decisions that contributed to the crisis, from the use of the Flint River to delays in reconnecting to DWSD (Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) once water quality problems were encountered,” a report summary reads.
“It’s our finding that clearly, (emergency managers) are the ones that made the decision to switch to the Flint River and to stick with it,” said the panel’s co-chair, Ken Sikkema, a former Michigan Senate majority leader.
“Ed Kurtz made the decision to switch. Darnell Earley was there when the switch was made. And both Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose did not recommend going back to the Detroit system when problems mounted,” Sikkema added.
The report says the emergency manager law, which uses state-appointed officials to replace local representatives, removes checks and balances and public accountability, and should be reformed.
Task force member Dr. Lawrence Reynolds and Sikkema also spoke specifically to the issues of environmental injustice.
“Intention doesn’t matter, it’s the disparate effect,” Reynolds said. “The components of environmental justice require that people who are different are listened to fairly in a neutral environment. And when there is any disparate effect identified, that it’s remediated.”
Sikkema added: “It’s about equal treatment — in this case equal environmental protection and public health protection regardless of race, national origin or income — as one pillar of it. And the second pillar is meaningful participation in government decision making.”