Today (4/20/16) multiple felony and misdemeanor charges were filed against Michael Glasgow, a Flint utilities administrator, will be charged with tampering with evidence and willful neglect of office. Two state employees — Michael Prysby, an engineer with the state Department of Environmental Quality, and Stephen Busch, who supervised eight district water offices — will face charges for violating Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act, tampering with evidence, conspiracy, and misconduct in office. They are also accused of impeding an investigation into another problem with Flint water unrelated to lead: an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette vowed “there will be more to come”.
Flint Michigan is a city in the U. S. of 99,002, where 41.6% of residents live below the poverty line and the median household income is $24,679, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The city is 56.6% African-American.
In 2011, the State of Michigan took over Flint’s finances after an audit projected a $25 million deficit. Even though Flint’s water supply fund was $9 million in the red, State officials used some of this money to cover shortfalls in its general fund. A Flint receivership ended in April 2015, when the water fund was declared to be solvent and the remaining deficit was eliminated by an emergency loan.
In order to reduce the water fund shortfall, the city switched water sources in 2014. While a new pipeline connecting Flint with Lake Huron was under construction, the city turned to the Flint River as a water source during the two-year transition.
The Flint River had been the city’s primary water source decades earlier, but Flint switched to Lake Huron in 1967, purchasing its supply through the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Lake Huron, is the third largest body of fresh water in the world. It is a glacial lake formed over 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age and it is still fed by pure underground springs. Flint is geographically the last place on Earth where one should be drinking poisoned water.
Historically, the water in the Flint River downstream of Flint has been of poor quality, and was severely degraded during the 1970’s, due to “the presence of fecal coliform bacteria, low dissolved oxygen, plant nutrients, oils, and toxic substances.” In 2001, the state ordered the monitoring and cleanup of 134 polluted sites within the Flint River watershed, including industrial complexes, landfills and farms laden with pesticides and fertilizer.
According to a class-action lawsuit, the state Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent, in violation of federal law. According to a Virginia Tech study the river water was found to be 19 times more corrosive than water from Detroit, which was from Lake Huron.
Since the water wasn’t properly treated, lead from aging service lines to homes began leaching into the Flint water supply after the city tapped into the Flint River as its main water source.
Health effects of lead exposure in children include impaired cognition, behavioral disorders, hearing problems and delayed puberty. In pregnant women, lead is associated with reduced fetal growth. In everyone, lead consumption can impact the heart, kidneys and nerves.
Although there are medications that may reduce the amount of lead in the blood, treatments for the adverse health effects of lead have yet to be developed.
The General Motors plant in Flint stop using the city’s water due to concerns about high levels of chlorine corroding engine parts. The company strikes a deal with a neighboring township to purchase water from Lake Huron in lieu of using water from the Flint River. The switch cost the city $400,000.
On November 13, 2015, residents of Flint filed a federal class action lawsuit claiming 14 state and city officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, knowingly exposed Flint residents to toxic water.
On January 21, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criticized the state’s slow response to the crisis and expresses concerns about the construction of the new pipeline to Lake Huron. The agency issues an emergency administrative order to ensure state regulators are complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act and are being transparent in their response to the crisis. The EPA says it will begin testing the water and publishing the results on a government website. An EPA administrator who was notified in June about Flint’s high lead levels resigns effective February 1.
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