Corporate government

Flint Michigan was having big enough problems that it was taken over by the state. The governor appointed a manager (well, a series of managers) and this is what you get:

For decades, the City of Flint bought its water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, water that arrived “finished” — in other words, treated to make it safe for human consumption. In 2013, the city opted to join the Karegnondi Water Authority, along with Lapeer, Genesee and Sanilac counties, and in 2014, to pump water from the Flint River while the new system is under construction. Joining the KWA didn’t mandate the end of Flint’s relationship with DWSD — Genesee County, for example, has continued to purchase its water from Detroit, albeit at a premium, said county drain commissioner Jeff Wright.

In Flint, both decisions were made during the appointments of four different emergency managers, turnaround guys brought in by Snyder to fix Flint’s budget woes, and with the approval of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which monitors water quality and treatment.

which leads to:

It was Hanna-Attisha who last week reported that the number of Flint children with elevated blood-lead levels — 5 micrograms per deciliter or more — jumped from 2.1% in the 20 months prior to Sept. 15, 2013, to 4.0% between January 1 and September 15 this year. In certain ZIP codes, the change was even more troubling, she said — jumping from 2.5% of the children tested to 6.3%.

Her findings, though originally dismissed by state environmental officials, helped prompt Genesee County to issue an emergency advisory to Flint residents, advising them to refrain from drinking city water unless it is filtered through a certified filtration device or had been tested and showed that it doesn’t contain elevated lead levels.

and it was expected if not planned for:

Because much of our infrastructure is composed of copper pipes with lead welds, systems like Detroit’s add anticorrosive agents to prevent lead from leaching into the water. River water is more difficult to treat than lake water, Wright says; its chemistry can change daily. Because the Flint River is shallow, compared with Lake Huron, its temperature is higher. All of this impacts the composition of the water, and what chemicals are required to make it potable and safe to pass through old pipes.

When Flint started pumping river water, the local plant either never employed corrosion control, or didn’t employ sufficient control. Remarks made Friday by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality chief Dan Wyant didn’t make that entirely clear, and Snyder’s spokesperson didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking clarification by the Free Press’ Friday deadline.

and of course there’s this:

And here’s the thing that seems to really gall some Flint residents: As the water quality has suffered, their bills have gone up, thanks to rate increases imposed first by Mayor Dayne Walling, and then built into the budget by Snyder’s emergency managers. A Genesee Circuit Court judge issued an injunction in August rolling back a 35% rate increase imposed by Walling in 2011.

Here’s what that led to:

Immediately, problems arose. Residents complained about water that was suddenly cloudy, odorous and tasted rancid. Test results showed levels of fecal coliform bacteria and, eventually, elevated levels of total trihalomethanes, chemical compounds which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can lead to liver or kidney issues for an individual who consumes water with high levels over a long period of time.

Almost immediately after Flint switched to the river, Walters said her household’s water was “coming in brown”. Whenever her four-year-old son Gavin would come in contact with the water, she said, “he would break out in this scaly, gross rash”.

It wasn’t just Gavin, however.

Soon, the family started losing their hair. The mother of four also got a rash on her right leg; despite her use of multiple creams and antibiotics, it hasn’t gone away.

Then, in February, she was informed by her pediatric doctor that Gavin had been diagnosed with lead poisoning. Low-level exposure could produce long-term health effects, including behavioral and learning disabilities. What’s more, there is no safe level of lead exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But it saved some money.

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