Flint Water Advisory Task Force Report
I haven’t been blogging much lately, partly because I’ve been recovering from a stupid bike accident from last Friday, where I fell forward over my handlebars on the West Side bikepath, and partly because, as a result of my accident, I decided to stop and smell the roses a bit, meaning I actually read a novel. It was an amazing experience, reading a novel for the first time in years, especially one this distracting. It’s called Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, and if you have time, please read it.
I’m mostly recovered now, and I have to say, my one week of detox from the normal news cycle has been freaking amazing. I feel restored. Restored enough to read the recent Flint Water Advisory Task Force Report.
And, holy crap. It’s really good, and places the blame squarely on the State of Michigan, Governor Snyder, and in particular on the Emergency Management system that cares only about money over public health. I’ve blogged about the fucked up and racist system of Emergency Managers in Michigan before.
For a summary of the time-line of events which led to the widespread lead poisoning, take a look at pages 16 through 21. After that, if you want to get something else done this morning, jump to the following excerpt from page 54 which gets to the very heart of the issue:
Environmental justice embraces two fundamental principles: (1) the fair, non-discriminatory treatment of all people; and (2) the provision for meaningful public involvement of all people— regardless of race, color, national origin or income—in government decision-making regarding environmental laws, regulations and polices. Environmental justice or injustice, therefore, is not about intent. Rather, it is about process and results—fair treatment, equal protection, and meaningful participation in neutral forums that honor human dignity.
Environmental injustice is not about malevolent intent or deliberate attacks on specific populations, nor does it come in measures that overtly violate civil rights. Environmental injustices as often occur when parties charged with the responsibility to protect public health fail to do so in the context of environmental considerations.
The facts of the Flint water crisis lead us to the inescapable conclusion that this is a case of environmental injustice. Flint residents, who are majority Black or African American and among the most impoverished of any metropolitan area in the United States, did not enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as that provided to other communities. Moreover, by virtue of their being subject to emergency management, Flint residents were not provided equal access to, and meaningful involvement in, the government decision-making process.
The occurrence of environmental injustice in the Flint water crisis does not indict or diminish other public and private efforts to address Flint’s many challenging circumstances. However, irrespective of the intent of the parties involved, the simple reality is that the Flint water crisis is a case of environmental injustice.
Also, there’s this on page 56:
Among African American seniors, the protracted Flint water crisis echoes the tragic Tuskegee syphilis study and the decision not to treat smallpox among freedmen in the aftermath of the American Civil War. From this perspective, it is noted that measuring blood lead levels without removing the sources of lead from the environment—in this case, lead-tainted water—appears the equivalent of using Flint’s children (and adults) as human bioassays.
I’m so glad this work was done.