The state of Michigan is “fundamentally accountable” for Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis because of decisions made by its environmental regulators and state-appointed emergency managers who controlled the city, an investigatory task force concluded on March 23.
The panel, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to review the disaster, said in a withering report that what happened in Flint is “a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice.”
“One of the biggest lessons we hope to impart in our report is the need for government leaders to listen to their constituents; in Flint that didn’t happen,” said Chris Kolb, co-chairman of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force.
Flint’s 2014 switch in drinking water sources led the supply to become contaminated when lead leached from old pipes into some homes.
While the investigators primarily blamed the state Department of Environmental Quality for the disaster — it initially did so in preliminary findings that led the agency’s director to resign in December — it also faulted a host of other government offices and officials for contributing to the fiasco or delaying action to fix it.
Those include the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Genesee County Health Department, the city of Flint and financial managers that Snyder named to run the city of nearly 100,000 people.
The five-member task force interviewed 66 people during its months-long investigation and made a number of recommendations, including considering alternatives to the emergency manager system.