Did you think the story of MDEQ malfeasance could not get worse? Wrong again. MDEQ’s negligence quite possibly killed a few of the very people they were paid to protect
Those are only a few of the seemingly endless articles concerning the Flint water crisis. They all tend to assign the blame on the Governor, the emergency managers, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the EPA. I wonder why one other player, the elephant in the room, doesn’t seem to receive their share of the blame?
I’m talking about the city of Flint. After all, it was their half-century of financial mismanagement that led to the reason the emergency managers were brought in. Agree or disagree that the em’s were an appropriate response, Flint can’t blame any of the other players for the position they got themselves into.
And this fact seems to be overlooked by everyone. Yes, it was the DEQ that failed to enforce the Lead and Copper Rule correctly allowing the city to delay implementing a corrosion control program. However, nothing was standing in the way of the city still doing the right thing. It is in fact the utility, the city of Flint in this case, that has the responsibility to formulate a corrosion control program. Then that program is submitted to the DEQ for final approval. They may consult with the DEQ during the process, which Flint did, or simply go on their own and seek DEQ approval.
Unfortunately, the city went with the minimalist approach and sought to do the least amount possible as required by law. They could very well have submitted an optimal corrosion control program to the DEQ regardless of what the minimum threshold was. It’s the same sort of logic that the deeply flawed Lead and Copper Rule allows. The allowable limit for lead is 15 parts per billion and that is what encourages utilities to bend the rules (or sometimes outright commit fraud) in an attempt to stay just under it so they don’t have to go public and take action. They could take it upon themselves to reduce it to zero but the law doesn’t require it.
Flint may not have had the authority to make final decisions, however they could have introduced the right ones. They also shoulder the blame for electing to switch their primary coagulant to ferric chloride, which caused to corrosion problems, and not fuly vet its effects in real world conditions using river water as a source. This could have been done well ahead of time utilizing standard industry practices of bench testing, pipe loops, jar tests, etc. There is no reason other than negligence to not complete sampling under the distribution system conditions they knew they would face. Flint also benefited from the fact that they operated the plant approx. 20 days each year using river water as a source while in a backup capacity to Detroit water. A perfect opportunity to assess what effect no corrosion control would have upon the lead service lines. Some simple valving could have targeted a specific test area to use treated river water in place of Detroit water and measure its effects.
The left will have none of it. They see blood in the water and want to seize upon the opportunity to take back some turf from the republicans. They also don’t want the finger of blame pointed toward any bureaucracy as that doesn’t fit the agenda of expanding it. The window of opportunity is short. Once the lead levels decline to below the action level, the ability to have federal taxpayers pay for Flint’s infrastructure replacement withers. At that point they become just another city with old pipes. Despite the inept DEQ, the flawed EPA, and even a compromised Governor with a different partisan agenda if you want to go there, Flint had the power to do this the right way and failed. It’s time they look in the blame game mirror.