What a difference six months has made in Flint, Mich. By July of 2015, the scandal regarding the city’s lead-poisoned water had reached such intensity that its toxicity had infected the Governor’s office.
“I’m frustrated by the water issue in Flint,” wrote Dennis Muchmore, chief of staff for Gov. Rick Synder. “I really don’t think people are getting the benefit of the doubt. Now they are concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving from the (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) samples.
“These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us.”
By January, Flint’s local crisis had become a national news story. Muchmore’s email had surfaced, underscoring the belief in Flint that the governor had been disturbingly unresponsive and callously indifferent to their plight.
Facing mounting criticism and pressure, Synder declared a state of emergency on Jan. 5. He mobilized the National Guard seven days later to help distribute bottled water, filters and other necessities.
President Obama responded to Synder’s request for help by declaring a federal state of emergency in Flint on Jan. 16, which will give the city access to at least $5 million in aid. And Cher, the world-renown actress and singer who called Synder a murderer in a Jan. 5 tweet, has partnered with Icelandic Glacial to ship more than 181,000 bottles of water to Flint.
“This is an impoverished city,” explained Lanice Lawson, founder of Bottles for the Babies, an organization that has distributed thousands of units of bottled water to Flint’s citizens. “Most of the residents are struggling.”
Flint, one hour from Detroit, has a 40 percent poverty rate. Lawson and others believe that the governor was engaged in foot-dragging at the expense of the once thriving city’s residents. His efforts to help them, after months of denials and inaction, have not quelled their outrage.
“This should be considered a crime against humanity,” Lawson said.