Justice is (finally) coming for Flint residents


Water is the source of life, or death:

After a criminal investigation that stretched close to two years, prosecutors in Michigan on Thursday announced 41 counts — 34 felonies and seven misdemeanors — against nine officials who once worked in the highest echelons of state government.

Prosecutors said the officials failed to protect the safety and health of the residents of Flint, who were sickened by increased levels of lead and by Legionnaires' disease after the city’s water supply was switched to the Flint River in April of 2014. At least nine people died of Legionnaires’ in the Flint region from June of 2014 through October of 2015; two of the officials on Thursday were charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The Flint River was already nasty decades before Michigan officials decided to make the switch. They knew it, and so did everybody else. But they did it anyway:

After the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, a 1974 study of the Flint River showed improvement upstream of the city but significant toxins downstream. Raw sewage discharges from Flint’s wastewater plant raised fecal coliform bacteria; phenol from GM plants and ammonia from the wastewater plants contributed toxic materials. These chemicals cause skin rashes, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases, and other health problems when ingested.

Heavy use of fertilizers in rural areas upstream of the city also polluted the river. A 1975 EPA study of the Holloway Reservoir upstream showed that phosphates from fertilizers and detergents had stimulated algae growth. Unchecked, the algae made the water’s oxygen levels collapse, turning it cloudy and brown.

Official landfills (like one in Richfield Township, now bankrupt, and a toxic cleanup site) and unofficial ones (like one on Bray Road, only cleaned up in 2014 so the city could dump its own wastewater sludge there) all polluted the grounds and groundwater. A 1996 story in the Flint Journal listed 81 closed dumps and landfills in the Flint area at various stages of cleanup, showing different levels of groundwater contamination. Some were monitored; many were not.

Road salt on the city’s bridges raised the river’s chlorine levels, making the water more corrosive. This has continued into the present and may have been one reason poorly-treated Flint River water was so damaging to metal pipes.

In 1977, a crack in the main water pipe from Lake Huron caused the city to temporarily switch to Flint River water and local filtration. Residents then reported a poor taste. Later reports indicate that it took "10 times the amount of chemicals to treat Flint River water than Lake Huron."

Between 1986 and 1988, high levels of coliform bacteria were intermittently found in Flint’s drinking water. Flint and Detroit blamed each other; the source of the infection was never found.

Bolding mine, because that alone should have kept them from making this switch. It was a test-case scenario forced on them decades before, and the test was flunked. You won't find a worse example of environmental disregard than the industries (including GM) who made millions in the area:

While environmental regulations kept companies from dumping waste into the river directly, illegal and accidental dumping were rampant. In 1990, a furniture salesman was convicted of dumping entire drums of methylene chloride, toluene and xylene, lead and other chemicals onto his property on the banks of the river. Sixty-five gallons of toxic sludge were found; 527,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil were removed. Lewis Street and Riverside Drive in east Flint, just south of the water plant, were known for years as prime spots for dumping furniture and garbage along the river, as well as high crime rates. There are dozens of stories like this.

North Carolina has had more than its fair share of such reckless behavior by industry, which is why it is critical that we not allow them to regulate themselves. Corporate funded "studies" of chemicals and polluted areas are useless, and should not be used as even a small part of permitting or hazardous site remediation.