Social Justice Leaders Respond to Michigan Governor’s Call for Flint to Reconnect to Detroit Water to End Contamination Crisis

DETROIT – In the wake of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s recommendation that the City of Flint reconnect to the Detroit water system to stem its lead-contamination woes, leaders from the ACLU of Michigan and the Natural Resources Defense Council today urged the state to take additional steps to not only solve the current problem in Flint but to prevent future crises.

“While we certainly welcome Flint’s return to a source of clean water, we are just as concerned about making sure that we have measures in place to prevent such disasters in the future,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “At its root, this problem springs from short-sighted decision-making by an emergency manager who, in the name of fiscal expediency, left the city to grapple on its own with devastating public-health consequences. The immediate solution is to make sure the water is safe. But any long-term fix to this problem must ensure that those responsible for these decisions are held accountable.”

Governor Snyder will ask the State Legislature to contribute $6 million of the $12 million expected to fund the switch. The balance of the funding will be provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which will contribute $4 million, and the City of Flint, which will contribute $2 million.

“Reconnecting the people of Flint to a safe drinking water source is absolutely the right decision, and we urge the State legislature to provide the $6 million in funding to make this switch happen in all due haste,” said Henry Henderson, Midwest Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This should have already happened some time ago. Securing lead-free water is just one recommendation that our coalition requested in a petition for emergency action by the EPA. Until the Detroit water source is connected and corrosion control fully takes effect, which may take a number of months, it is absolutely critical that federal, state and local authorities take steps to ensure that Flint residents, especially kids, are not consuming leaded water. Even a few months of high lead in a kid’s blood can do permanent damage.

“Given the City and State’s bungling of the lead crisis to date, we stand by our call for the EPA to oversee the return to safe drinking water in Flint. And the Mott Foundation's efforts show the essential role of nongovernmental institutions to help fix the sorry situation,” added Henderson.

Last week the Natural Resources Defense Council, ACLU of Michigan, and local groups petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency to order a similar action. However, the EPA said this week that it will not intervene.

ACLU of Michigan investigative reporter Curt Guyette weeks ago broke the story of how, despite city officials’ claims that the water was safe, residents were experiencing both long-term and short-term health problems as a result of exposure to the lead-tainted water.

Following initial ACLU of Michigan reports, researchers from Virginia Tech conducted tests on water samples from nearly 300 homes in Flint. Their results showed a dangerously high amount of lead in the samples. Further, their research led them to question the city’s test results and its dubious testing methods.