Opinion: Flint water crisis an embarrassment to Michigan, time for Snyder to resign

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Anthony Erhardt is a paralegal studies major and a member of Kent State College Democrats. Contact him at [email protected]

Anthony Erhardt Kent State College Democrats

“I’m sorry, and I will fix it.”

This quote comes from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s address concerning the recent water contamination crisis taking place in Flint, Michigan. Is Snyder’s apology and subsequent request that state lawmakers allocate $28 million to help those affected by the crisis too little too late?

With new details being revealed virtually every day, it’s hard to keep track of the facts of what is happening in Flint.

CNN summarizes the situation: “In charge of the city’s budget amid a financial emergency, the state decided to temporarily switch Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure until a new supply line to Lake Huron was ready. The river had a reputation for nastiness, and after the April 2014 switch, residents complained their water looked, smelled and tasted funny. Virginia Tech researchers found the water was highly corrosive.A class-action lawsuit alleges the state Department of Environmental Quality didn’t treat the water for corrosion, in accordance with federal law, and because so many service lines to Flint are made of lead, the noxious element leached into the water of the city’s homes.”

So what does this all mean? If what the residents of Flint are saying is true, then that means Michigan lawmakers and governmental agencies deliberately ignored their citizens’ concerns about their water supply, even after switching to a reportedly less than desirable water supply.

The effects of drinking lead-contaminated water can be devastating, especially for younger children. The Washington Post writes that, “Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in a person’s body, and even low levels of lead in a child’s blood have been found to affect IQ, attention spans and performance in school, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also says that the effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.”

The bigger question is: did Governor Snyder and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality intentionally lie to their citizens about the water quality, and more importantly, why? The Flint River was already known for having poor quality water; that’s a red flag immediately. Let’s go back even further to the start of Rick Snyder’s term as governor. A recent CNN article cites a 2011 study that concluded, “Before water from the Flint River could be considered potable, it would need to be treated with an anti-corrosion agent, a measure that would have cost the state about $100 a day. Experts say that water treatment would have prevented 90% of the problems with Flint’s water.”

So let’s recap: As Rick Snyder is taking office, a study is published that finds that before the Flint River can be used it must be treated, rather inexpensively for $100 a day. Fast forward four years, and the state decides to switch Flint’s water supply because of budgetary concerns to a river that is known to be far dirtier than Lake Huron and willfully ignore citizen complaints that there is something wrong with the water until they are forced to deal with the reality of the situation.

Thankfully, the response by federal officials was swifter and will hopefully be more effective. I commend President Barack Obama for ordering emergency federal aid to the state of Michigan. To me, there are only two solutions: Firstly, the state should absolutely, without a doubt allocate the $28 million that Governor Snyder has requested. The State of Michigan owes the citizens of Flint, especially the young children who may never recover from the poisoning, at least that much.

Secondly, the time has come for Rick Snyder to resign as Governor of Michigan. Governor Snyder’s actions, whether intentional or unintentional, show a serious lack of leadership and regard for the citizens he was elected to serve. I sincerely hope that this federal aid will help the men, women and children affected by this terrible water crisis in Flint.

However, I do not believe that the state can truly start healing until it has an effective leader that will listen to his constituent’s pleas. In the words of Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, “There are no excuses. The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing (…) The people of Flint deserve more than an apology.” 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the College Democrats as an organization.