In 2015, Flint pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha tested blood lead levels in her patients after being notified of possible lead poisoning in the city’s water supply. She discovered that many of the children’s blood lead levels had doubled, and even tripled in some cases, after the city switched its water source from the Great Lakes Water Authority to the Flint River. She was initially dismissed and discredited by city, state and federal government officials when she released her findings. But by going public with the information, Hanna-Attisha helped to contain the damaging heath consequences of the Flint water crisis.
Yesterday (February 11), M Live and published an opinion piece penned by Hanna-Attisha that details why another water crisis could happen as a result of state-mandated environmental policies. She believes that the residents of Flint must have the support of the government to avoid future catastrophe:
When the citizens of the majority African-American city rose up against the filthy drinking water, their concerns were ignored by an apathetic state government. Each investigation into the crisis, including former Governor Rick Snyder’s own task force and the one done by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, pointed to race as a leading factor in the perfect storm of neglect that caused failure on all fronts—to act, to protect, to fix, to be responsible and accountable—even after officials clearly saw the scope of the problem.
In November, Michigan elected a new governor, Gretchen Whitmer, whom Hanna-Attisha believes can make a positive difference in the state:
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has proven that she has learned some valuable lessons from Flint. Her first executive directive was to require state civil servants to immediately report imminent threats to public health and safety, like contaminated drinking water, to their department directors.
On February 4, she signed another executive order that will address some key factors that led to the Flint Water Crisis—and prevent another such tragedy from occurring. The order will reorganize the Department of Environmental Quality and dissolve industry-led environmental rule review panels.
Hanna-Attisha writes that this executive order “will help build a more responsive state government.” However, there are many obstacles that could impede the governor’s plans:
Public trust in leadership is pitifully low. Right now, residents of Flint and citizens across the state have given up on the idea that state government will fix their drinking water. We can’t expect that to change with a few executive orders. And why should we? Some members of the state legislature—either unable to absorb the lessons of Flint, or overeager to please their industry friends and donors—have already launched a push to roll-back Whitmer’s new executive orders. Sadly, the State House voted to override the executive order two days after it was announced. The profiteering polluters of Michigan are especially excited about making sure their industry review panels are kept in place, public health be damned.
After the Michigan House voted against her executive order, Whitmer vowed that she would still implement the policies. M Live reports that both the House and Senate must have a majority vote to keep the executive order from going into effect. To date, the Senate has not voted on it.
Hanna-Attisha sees the solution to Flint’s water crisis as a unified effort between public citizens and elected offices, all working, she writes, “to protect Michigan’s environment, and in turn, to protect our most precious Michigan resource, our children.”
Read the entire article here.