Opinion: Failure of government endangers Flint residents

Jacob Tabler is a junior political science major and a member of the Kent State College Republicans. Contact him at [email protected]

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has been a significant problem for the last few months. From the city to federal level, the government has struggled to handle the problem in an efficient manner. So who is responsible for this problem, and who is responsible for providing the solution?

It seems that a single component of government was not at fault for the crisis, every department had a part to play in how the problem was handled. The city of Flint has been in financial crisis for several years. This can partly be attributed to the significant disappearance of manufacturing jobs in the city. In response to the financial crisis, Governor Rick Snyder appointed an Emergency Advisor to handle the problem. He was given authority over the city by the Governor’s Office.  

One of the important decisions the advisor made was to change the water source for Flint. The advisor made the decision to stop drawing water from Detroit and draw water from Lake Huron instead. However, the new supply from Lake Huron would not be ready for some time, so the nearby Flint river would be used an interim water source. However, due to the corrosive nature of the river, lead from the pipes leaked into the water. The water supply then became toxic and completely unsafe to drink due to the amount of lead in it. This posed serious health issues to the people of Flint.

The blame can be directed toward several levels of the government: First, the city government can be blamed for how they handled the financial crisis in their town. Leading to the need of a state appointed advisor. Governor Snyder can be blamed for those appointed that made the decision to switch to an interim source. The state’s Department of Environmental Quality carries significant blame as well for how they oversaw the change of water supply. The agency did not require testing of the water beforehand. Nor did they recommend that any anti-corrosive agent be added to the water, instead the department was recommending two six month waiting periods to observe if any anti-corrosive supplements were needed.

The next failure came at the federal level. The EPA was given reports about the high toxicity of the water. However the agency was slow to respond. In a CNN report, the EPA would not work with the Mayor’s office, who was seeking more information on how to handle the crisis. The EPA reportedly told him that the studies must be properly vetted before releasing them. This is something that took months to do.

Overall this crisis shows the inefficiency of the bureaucracy. Now, the problem is being politicized to gain votes during this election season. Both parties share the blame and pointing fingers will not solve the crisis at hand. The city is responsible for providing the clean water while both the State Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA should be held responsible for the purity of the water. These agencies need to work together to provide a viable solution for the people, and if they cannot they must be held accountable for their actions.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Kent State College Republicans as an organization.