Society

Here's Why Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Needs To Resign Over Flint Water Crisis

| by Nik Bonopartis
Michigan Gov. Rick SnyderMichigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Flint, Michigan's Tonya Burns summed it up in ten words.

“We’re not a third-world country,” Burns said. “Water is a natural right.”

We usually associate drinking water problems with poverty-stricken countries. Seeing villagers in far-off nations forced to walk miles toward the nearest water source, or kids sickened by contaminated water wells, are the sorts of things that make people shake their heads and say they're glad to be Americans.

So how is it possible that people in an American city with a population of 100,000 have been drinking contaminated, lead-poisoned water since April 2014?

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A massive failure in government that goes from Flint's mayor, Karen Weaver, all the way up to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan.

It was Weaver who, standing in front of the press and TV cameras, raised a glass of the poisoned water and gulped it down in an effort to convince her constituents there was nothing wrong with the tap.

It was Snyder's administration that allowed a spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality to say, publicly, that "anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax."

All this was happening while the people of Flint were turning on their sinks, showers and tubs and finding blue-, green-, and yellow-tinted water that smelled alternately of gasoline or fish. All this as residents complained of strange rashes, hair falling out, mysterious infections, and other ailments that would later be attributed to the decision to switch Flint's drinking water source from Lake Huron to the contaminated Flint River.

If anyone doubts Snyder is ultimately responsible for the foul-up, consider this: Flint's residents were already drinking contaminated water for more than a year when the state told them, emphatically, that there was nothing wrong with their tap water. Internal documents from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality show samples revealing elevated levels of lead in Flint's water were quietly removed from their reports, and the state never conducted the tests properly in the first place, CNN reported.

"In essence, the state took an 'F-grade' for Flint water's report on lead and made it into an 'A-grade,'" Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech University professor and lead researcher for the Flint Water Study, told CNN.

State officials continued to deny the problem until September 2015, when a research team at Hurley Medical Center in Flint reported levels of lead in the blood of children younger than 5 years old had doubled since the water source had switched, TIME reported.

Even before this report, however, Flint's residents had complained about the water, and in March 2015, Flint's city council members voted to switch back to using Lake Huron as a water source. They were stopped by Jerry Ambrose, an emergency manager appointed by Snyder who had veto power over the city council.

Saying Lake Huron's water "is no safer than water from Flint," Ambrose insisted "Flint water today is safe by all" EPA and state standards, Michigan Live reported at the time.

Over the course of January, the Flint crisis has become fodder for the campaign trail, with candidates like Hillary Clinton pretending they've been concerned -- or even aware -- of the crisis previously, in a cynical attempt to rally voters.

That shouldn't distract from the real problem: The people of Flint repeatedly told their government that their drinking water was contaminated, and their government repeatedly insisted that it wasn't.

For denying there was a problem in the first place, for passing up on multiple opportunities to fix the problem, and for gambling with the lives of the people he's sworn to represent, Snyder should voluntarily resign from his post as governor. And when it's all said and done, and the water crisis is solved by people who will address the problem instead of covering it up, state prosecutors should take a long look at whether Snyder is criminally responsible for actions that could have a ripple effect on an entire generation.

Sources: Michigan Live (2), CNN, Guardian, TIME / Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Lindsey Smith/Here and Now