Governor Rick Snyder has been under public scrutiny since stories about the devastating mass water poisoning in Flint, Mich. were released. Snyder has admitted that he knew the water within the town was tainted with lead at least one year prior to the tragedy, but he neglected to do anything about it.
Snyder has recently been trying to classify the incident as an “environmental disaster” similar in scope to Hurricane Katrina. When he sat down for an interview with the National Journal, he continued to make excuses for his lack of action regarding the problem.
Snyder also said that he wanted to solve the problem rather than walk away from it, but his actions stated otherwise. Many question why, if he truly wanted to solve the problem, he didn’t take action immediately after he heard about it.
According to the Washington Post, the incident began when residents started to complain that their water seemed discolored, smelled rotten, and even caused their children to break out in a rash. Officials responded to the complaints by pumping dangerous amounts of chlorine into the town’s water supply, but residents continued to complain.
Officials responded to the continued complaints by saying that the water was safe to drink, despite evidence that stated otherwise. Snyder then put together a task force to investigate the complaints, which confirmed that there was a serious problem with the town’s water supply.
Snyder has admitted that he knew about the problem months before the information was released to the public, but when information was released stating that the EPA knew about the problem since February 2015, he tried to place the blame on them.
But nobody seems to believe the blame rests solely on the EPA, especially since Snyder has been trying to use the tragedy as a way to get financial help from the federal government. They have stated that the incident will be referred to as a “federal emergency” rather than an “environmental disaster.” The incident does not meet the legal criteria required to classify it as a major disaster.
FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate said that the incident was not caused by any type of natural disaster. Therefore, they have denied Snyder’s request for $96 million in emergency funds. Instead, the state will be given $5 million in emergency funds, and the decision to award more funds to the state has been placed on Congress.
Additionally, many people believe that the state chose to switch the water source from Lake Huron to Flint River, which is considered heavily polluted, as a way to cut corners. Also, Snyder reportedly refused to pay $100 per day in order to make the water safe enough for residents to drink.
Many members of the community believe that $100 per day would have been a small cost to pay compared to the damage that the poisoned water caused. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha claims that the children who drank this water will suffer from cognitive issues as they get older. As the years go on, these same children may begin to suffer from behavioral issues as well.
Also, Snyder’s comparison of the incident to Hurricane Katrina is regarded by most people as inaccurate. Many believe that the only similarity to the two disasters is the fact that those in power refused to take action necessary to protect the citizens of the community.
It will take at least another year in order to clean up the town’s water supply, and even then the water may not be drinkable. Because of the extent of the damage caused by Snyder’s refusal to act, members of the community feel that he should be held criminally responsible for his actions.