LANSING — On Nov. 21, 2017, the city of Flint approved of a contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) as the city’s primary water source for the next 30 years, with the Genesee County Drain Commissioner (GCDC) serving as the city’s backup water source. As a result of that vote, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter on Dec. 12, 2017, notifying the city of Flint, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the state of Michigan that they are now required to comply with requirements laid out in the EPA’s Emergency Order made on Jan. 21, 2016. State Reps. Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint) and Phil Phelps (D-Flushing) have each expressed their disapproval of the state’s failure to address all of the conditions and requirements contained in the letter sent by the EPA in December, and note that they were never consulted about the state’s future actions.
“It is disappointing to learn that the state still fails to provide any form of enhanced educational community campaign to restore confidence in the city’s water,” Neeley said. “The Flint community has suffered for nearly five years due to the lack of compassion and oversight at the state level, and this crisis in confidence will take countless years, possibly even generations, to undo. Rep. Phelps and I have introduced legislation and tried to work with state officials to address the alarming situations faced by most Flint residents, but we cannot fix this on our own. The state must take greater actions now to do better by the people of Flint. I can say with confidence that both Rep Phelps and I are willing to stand with like-minded thinkers fighting for the distribution centers to remain open until Flint residents are satisfied that their health is not at risk.”
According to the Emergency Order from 2016, with a primary and secondary water source officially in place, the city, MDEQ and the state of Michigan are now responsible for completing the following requirements:
- Providing for continued transparency of each party’s actions to comply with the EPA’s 2016 Executive Order.
- Conducting a corrosion control study of the city’s current GLWA water source and the suggested blend of GLWA and GCDC water sources to be used when the emergency interconnection between the city and GCDC is finished.
- Exhibiting the city’s technical, managerial and financial capacity to operate its public water system.
- Supplying written notification to the EPA within five days of any future decision to change the city’s primary and/or backup water sources from the GLWA and GCDC.
Moving forward, Neeley and Phelps are providing a series of recommendations for the state to better address the continued effects of the water crisis. This includes providing the proper amount of time and funding for the state, the city and other stakeholders, including Flint Community Schools, to conduct baseline testing of school water, and implement a monitoring program of the water that includes proper notification and posting of the process, periodic testing, remediation and results to restore community trust and respond to community input. Neeley and Phelps introduced legislation in January 2017 that would require this type of program for water testing in schools and day care centers, among other water testing requirements. However, the Legislature has yet to act on these bills.
“Rep. Neeley and I have been adamant about introducing legislation at a state level to prevent the tragedy that Flint endured from ever occurring again,” Phelps said. “As the Legislature continues to stall any action on these bills, we are learning of other cities throughout Michigan that struggle with meeting acceptable drinking water standards, as well. The signs are all around us: we need better drinking water standards and oversight to keep our citizens safe and healthy.”