By Shea Howell
October 10, 2015
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder finally gave the go ahead for the City of Flint to reconnect to the Detroit water supply. In a press conference flanked by the head of the Mott Foundation, public health and environmental appointees, Snyder said he was “in full support of the return to the Great Lakes Water Authority.”
This decision came almost a year and a half after people in Flint launched a vigorous campaign against the decision to leave the Detroit water system, now called the GLWA.
Let us be clear. The only reason Snyder is acknowledging the problem with the water in Flint is because people organized to do their own water testing. Time after time, official after official told people the water was safe to drink. Defying common sense and daily experiences of illness, rashes, foul smell, discoloration, and particles in the water, public officials often mocked citizen concern and scientific evidence.
What the situation in Flint makes vividly clear is that public authority in Michigan has no moral sense. Their first response to the concerns of people should have been to immediately stop the switch to the Flint River. Their first response should have been to protect people at the hint of a possible problem.
Instead, they were willing to risk disaster. Speaking only of financial “savings,” they put at risk an entire city and the eco system on which it depends in danger.
This was all predictable. Cities have been delivering water to their people for thousands of years. We have a vast body of knowledge about the corrosive effects of different water sources and the interaction with pipes. Snyder and his appointees chose to ignore this.
We need to know just why the Governor and the State legislature decided to create another water authority in Michigan. Who is benefiting from this decision? Why is it more efficient to build this new system, especially when many of the pipes are running right on top of those of the Detroit System? Who is making money on this deal? To what extent was this decision tied to forcing the Detroit bankruptcy and the formation of a new Water Authority in the control of white suburban appointees?
Snyder makes much of his raising $12 million to help Flint switch back to Detroit water. But the truth is this switch will take a few hours and not cost much. The $12 million is the price Flint has paid to Detroit for years for water from the city. The real new cost is that of the new Karegnondi Water Authority that Flint citizens are being asked to pay for through yet another bond issue to big banks.
State officials cannot be trusted with our children, our lives, or our water.
This week in Detroit the so-called Blue Ribbon Committee will meet to look at water affordability. They should look closely at was has happened in Flint. There has been no sign from the Governor that he understands that the crime of poisoning children with lead is linked to the crime of cutting off water to people. He has continued to insist on unsustainable pricing policy that is deadly and destructive. There is no moral difference between giving children poisoned water and not giving them any water at all.