Not Surprisingly, Investigation Says State Government Responsible for Flint Water Poisoning

A panel created to investigate and point fingers at those responsible for the poisoning of Flint's water supply has published their findings and they point a finger at several agencies within the state government and, more significantly, the emergency managers appointed by Governor Rick Snyder.

“[T]he state is fundamentally accountable for what happened in Flint,” it states. “The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice.”

The report enumerates a number of shortcomings among state agencies, particularly the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), which it says bears “primary responsibility” for the water contamination and “failed in its fundamental responsibility to effectively enforce drinking water regulations.”

As you may recall, emergency managers have claimed they were not chiefly responsible for making the decision to alter the city's water source, but this report makes it clear that emergency management was and is responsible.

The report also found, contrary to the claims of former emergency managers such as Darnell Earley, that emergency managers and not Flint’s local officials made the decision to switch Flint’s water from Detroit to the Flint River, which was a first step in the contamination crisis.

As the head of the executive branch of the state government, Governor Snyder is ultimately responsible for these failings. Governor Snyder pushed for emergency management. He selects the managers who only answer to him. Governor Snyder appointed the agency heads who presided over this disaster and, as we've seen, the governor's closest aides and advisers knew about the problem a year before the state confronted it publicly.

The reports faults the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well but personally I find that hard to take seriously. Maybe the EPA didn't act in a capacity that it could have, but it would be a lie to say the EPA hasn't faced an enormous amount of obstruction over the past six years from Republicans in Congress, state legislatures, and local state agencies. They're damned if they do and damned if they don't.

The Republican war against the EPA is ongoing. The budget blueprint being pushed by House Republican leadership would gut the EPA's ability to regulate.