Gov. Snyder responded today to the initial findings of his appointed Flint Water Task Force, acknowledging the harm that had been done to the Flint community under his watch, and pledging to do whatever was necessary to make the situation right. Snyder also pointed out that Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, has offered his resignation, and that Snyder has accepted that resignation.
Snyder’s statement says some of the right things, and it’s nice to know that at least now he seems to have a better understanding of the magnitude of the crisis that is Flint. It is sorely tempting to say “too little too late,” however it can also be argued that if anyone should be front and center managing this crisis and accepting the blame it should be Gov. Snyder. This is not an issue that should be passed along to anyone else. This tragedy occurred under his watch, and this is the governor’s big chance to show whether he truly means what he says about making this right. If ever there was a time for this relentless positive action that we keep hearing so much about, then this is it.
But before moving on to the actual text of Snyder’s remarks, it should also be noted that Michigan’s Independent Auditor General Doug Ringler has also issued a report, and it doesn’t exactly let the governor off the hook. After all, it was the governor who appointed the all-powerful emergency manager who approved the deal allowing for Flint’s population to drink poisoned water to save money. Despite Darnell Earley’s protestations to the contrary in an oped submitted to the Michigan Chronicle several weeks ago, where he said the decision to switch to Flint water was made by elected city officials and not by him, Ringler’s report makes it plain that the emergency manager (that would be Earley) was indeed responsible for signing off on the switch. Darnell Earley is now emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools.
For those who might wonder why the acid tone, it probably has something to do with the fact that the lives of innocent children in Flint have been effectively ruined by drinking poisoned water, brought to them courtesy of their elected and non-elected representatives who denied anything was wrong for over a year before being forced to finally admit the truth. Making this right will not be easy, to say the least.
From Michigan Radio:
“Ringler’s review confirms it was the state appointed emergency manager who made the decision to switch to the Flint River, not city leaders. It also confirmed that Detroit’s water system made offers to keep Flint as a water customer, but that a different emergency manager rejected those offers.”
And here is Gov. Snyder’s response to the findings of the Flint Water Task Force in total:
“When I became aware that the city of Flint’s water showed elevated lead levels and that the state’s handling of the situation was being questioned, I requested funding to switch the source back to the Great Lakes Water Authority and appointed an independent task force to identify possible missteps and areas for improvement.
“The task force has done an exceptional job, reviewing stacks of documents and interviewing scores of Flint, Genesee County, state and federal officials. Although the task force’s final report is not yet completed, members have made me aware of some interim findings and corrective steps that I have decided to take immediately in order to restore trust in how the state keeps its citizens safe and informed.
“We’ll continue to work with the community members to make sure we hear and respond to their concerns.
“In addition, MDEQ Director Dan Wyant has offered his resignation, and I’ve determined that it’s appropriate to accept it. I’m also making other personnel changes at MDEQ to address problems cited by the task force.
“But changes in leadership and staff are not enough. I understand there can be disagreements within the scientific community. That is why I have directed both the departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services to invite every external scientist who has worked on this issue to be our partners in helping us improve Flint water. Let’s share research on water and blood lead level testing so we can arrive at accurate and mutually supported conclusions. Together, we should work to affirm that we’re using the very best testing protocols to ensure Flint residents have safe drinking water and that we’re taking steps to protect their health over the short and long term.
“I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened. And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure.
“I know many Flint citizens are angry and want more than an apology. That’s why I’m taking the actions today to ensure a culture of openness and trust. We’ve already allocated $10 million to test the water, distribute water filters, and help in other ways. Last week, I called Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, and we’re going to meet soon to discuss other ways the state can offer assistance.
“These are only initial steps – we fully expect to take more actions following the recommendations of our task force. When it comes to matters of health and quality of life, we’re committed to doing everything we can to protect the well-being of our citizens.”