The Flint Water Crisis: A Perfect Storm [Part Three of Three]

in #informationwar4 years ago

A Perfect Storm

Dr. Mona-Attisha's press conference hit all the right chords: minority children at risk, an insidious killer in the very water supply and a massive government coverup.

Protesters march for a variety of reasons during Flint water protests - Image Source

If you're reading this our of order, consider begining at the beginning.
Read Part One Here
Read Part Two Here

Cause a Panic, Become a Hero

Dr. Mona clearly felt the drama of her position. In her initial press conference, she didn't point out the problem was in a small area and while there was concern, there wasn't need for panic. She made claims about lead that showed she did not really understand how lead poisoning usually happens ("water is the primary source of lead poisoning" - in fact, water is very rarely a source of lead poisoning in Michigan).

Her words and actions were intended to make the people of Flint believe they were all being poisoned. It worked.

Flint residents protest - Image Source

The media ate it up like candy and ran with it.

Panic ensued.

Dr. Mona became a hero.

Where Did That Come From?

The State of Michigan's initial response was, "We can't figure out how she got her results." They'd already been watching Flint, but hadn't seen anything like the massive scale of poisonings Dr. Mona was broadcasting.

It took a lot of work and questions to figure out how to filter their numbers get her results, and they refused to comment while they were doing so.

This was of course portrayed by the media - busy fanning the protest flames - as more evidence of coverup.

When they were finally able to nail down exactly how she'd read the numbers, they had to admit there had been a spike within the exact parameters Dr. Mona chose.

Yep, in one ZIP code there'd been a spike in 2014; and then there'd been a spike in two more during 2015.

Source: FOIA documents from the State of Michigan, pg 150

The Lead Hits The Fan

That's really when Democratic activists in our state went absolutely nuts.

We had protests and marches and op-eds and allegations and senate hearings. The Left began calling for our governor's immediate resignation. After all, he'd appointed the emergency manager for the bankrupt city of Flint and this was all his fault. Governor Snyder was a racist arrogant bigoted money-grubbing crook who needed to be impeached and maybe even jailed for poisoning poor minority kids and not even caring!

The politics were more toxic than that darn water.

Protester accusing Governor Snyder of coverup - Image Source

Again, ONE child was "lead poisoned".

FORTY-THREE had EBLs possible from water (they were first-time EBLs, indicating a new problem in their environment they hadn't had before).

Perspective: A Rare Commodity

To put Flint in perspective, here's a quote from a recent study surveying Flint's children before and after the water change:

"During the same period of Flint's water source change, 5.1 percent of Jackson, Mich. children age five and under, 8 percent of Grand Rapids, Mich. children and 7.5 percent of Detroit children had blood lead levels higher than the CDC reference point (compared with 3.7 percent of Flint children). During the same period, an average 3.4 percent of Michigan children and 3.3 percent of U.S. children had lead levels above the CDC reference point."

(Emphasis mine.)

Throughout the crisis, Flint had numbers in line with the average number of children nationwide with elevated blood lead levels.

Protesters claiming Flint's water is undrinkable - Image Source

Think on that for a moment: at least three cities in Michigan had worse lead numbers than Flint. Two of those cities have primarily Caucasian populations. Not a racist issue, then.

But the politics still don't care. Political activists stood on these kids and tried to use them as a lever to destroy a state government and a national party.

It's the politics that turned Flint into a political poster child (this was the 2016 election, after all). Next thing you know, Hillary was visiting and Flint was receiving more bottled water than they knew what to do with.


One of many Flint water drives - Image Source

And Flint's water was fixed. Pronto. Because it was finally discovered they hadn't been adding that important softening agent.


Deciding the children were poisoned by the water was a subjective matter and remains so. It's hard to look at the actual data and reach the conclusion Mona Hanna-Attisha broadcast - that all the children of Flint were being poisoned and the whole population was in deadly danger. But Dr. Mona clearly was ready to go national and become famous. It was a good cause and she ran with it to great success. The Flint Water Crisis has given her a whole new career and political platform to do things like write for the New York Times.

Again, Flint got it's water fixed. Money poured in to do it fast, official investigation discovered the missing softening agent and their next problem was what to do with the mountains of bottled water no one wanted.

Governor Snyder did not resign. But several people in the state lead removal program did.

Darnell Early was charged in criminal court for his actions.

EBLs are at a historic low in Flint.

Flint is out of receivership (hello lots and lots of money sent to them!) and back under the control of it's mayor and city council.

Most of the remaining problematic infrastructure has been replaced or is in the process of being replaced. Source

But Flint is now suing all of us in a class-action lawsuit seeking even more money. Because, you know, we owe them.

Vicitimhood As Cash Cow

All the kerfuffle basically amounted to Flint discovering they could make a lot of money being the poster child for the downtrodden minorities and they aren't ready to give up their new fame and fortune. The mayor is upset that the state is not planning on continuing it's bottled water program now that the water is fixed because Flint needs more money! Flint needs more help! Source

"The governor is no longer interested in discussing this situation, so we have to pursue legal means," the mayor said a few days ago. "Trust is not restored in Flint."

How do you restore trust in a city that is focused on being victims? How do the rest of us bear responsibility in a situation that's already been fixed?

A Meme, Not Reality

I see references to Flint almost daily. Most people in the country believe the narrative that Flint is still in deadly peril and falling to pieces while poisoning it's children.

Image Source

There's been so much money and effort thrown at them (to the detriment of other cities who also needed infrastructure repair) the city's water system is in better shape than it's been for a long, long time. They also haven't been drawing water from the Flint River for a long time, since they were able to join the new water system and get their water from Lake Huron as originally planned.

As to why there continue to be EBLs among children in Flint...well, as with other old cities, there are families living in older homes who haven't gotten rid of the lead paint that was put in pre-1978. In Michigan - and even Flint - dust from lead based paint is still the primary source of EBLs or lead poisoning. Flint also has issues with lead in their soil due to years of leaded-gasoline fumes (lead is an element: so yes, it's still around). But the great news is that children in Flint today are way less likely to get lead poisoning than they were 10 years ago.

But we don't hear this because of the sensational stories flying everywhere about Flint, water, lead, corruption and poor children who've been deliberately poisoned by a money-hungry government.

No matter how much we compensate, Flint always wants more. There are still people showing up at council meetings demanding more attention, more money and more recognition of their victimhood.

What On Earth Was This Whole Thing About?

People are emotional creatures and there are children involved.

Image Source

It's a primarily African-American city and the state government is primarily white.

Being victims leads to fame and fortune.

Sadly, one of the legacies of the last eight years is the most toxic racist environment I've ever lived in. I have never before seen such polarization along the lines of skin color. Suspicion between the races is off the charts. The Flint story's spin and sustained coverage is one proof.

Dr. Mona may have discovered a better way to track lead poisoning, but she didn't uncover a massive conspiracy from the State of Michigan to hide it. And Flint has had plenty of assistance at this point to get their act together.

The water is fine. The kids are fine. It's all over except the process of continuing to soak the rest of us Michiganders - and the country - for more money.

The Story Is Over

Please, everyone. Stop pointing at Flint and saying, "WHY ISN'T FLINT FIXED YET?"

It is. The story's over, guys.

Sadly, perceptions and attitudes take a whole lot longer to fix. Which is why I fear we'll be saddled with misconceptions about Flint for a long, long time to come.

Read Part One Here
Read Part Two Here

Lauren Turner, Wife, Mother, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, Blogger and Caretaker of Civilization


While we have our own drama here in SA I barely follow what's happening in international is lovely to see you posting again @lturner! I haven't been around for a number of months so I've missed out. How are you and your growing family?

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