Flint water supervisor claims DEQ didn’t require corrosion control
April 5, 2016
Courtesy of MIRS News Service
(FLINT) — The former lab supervisor in Flint’s water treatment department told a special legislative committee Tuesday that he assumed corrosion control would be necessary when the city switched from treated lake water to Flint River water, but was told by Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials that it would not be required.
Mike GLASGOW, who is now the utilities administrator with the city, said during an all-day hearing in Flint that he was concerned both by the lack of corrosion control and by the turnaround of switching from lake to river water without additional time or resources to test the situation.
Glasgow said he “put a lot of faith” in state officials and deferred to their expertise on matters that eventually proved harmful to Flint residents.
“I almost feel like everything is happening so fast. There are so many things to look at, I’s to dot, T’s to cross,” he said when asked about his concerns at the time. “It’s somewhat easy for these things to be overlooked or looked past.”
Glasgow became relevant to conversations surrounding the Flint water crisis when his name surfaced as someone who questioned the hasty turnover to the Flint River in between the city’s transition from Detroit’s city water supply (DWSD) to the Karegnondi Water Authority, and also expressed concern when residents’ water began testing at high lead levels.
“Wherever my career takes me, I believe I will question decisions of regulators in the future,” he later continued.
He was among the local players in the Flint water crisis who spoke Tuesday in front of the Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency on the discovery of the city’s lead-tainted municipal supply. The hearing started at 10 a.m. and extended well into the evening.
Former Flint Mayor Dayne WALLING, who lost his re-election bid last November over the issue, said been given assurances by the DEQ and emergency manager-appointed public works leadership that the water was safe to drink, which he initially passed along publicly despite personal concerns and public complaints.
“My family and I drank the water,” he said. “I echoed those assurances . . . which I wholly regret.”
When asked whether there was anything that he could have done differently as mayor to address those concerns, Walling said he was sorry he didn’t realize the extent of the problems sooner, but noted that he was asking questions that never got answered.
Walling added that he had no purchasing or budgetary authority, and although he reported his concerns with the public works director to the emergency manager, he said he did not have the power to oust him.
Genesee County Health Director Mark VALACEK and Environmental Health Supervisor Jim HENRY laid the majority of the blame on state officials, pointing out that when they initially expressed concern with the uptick in Legionnaire’s Disease cases, state officials rebuffed them.
They were also assured blood levels were safe in Genesee County until they were told 20 minutes before a press conference that Dr. Mona HANNA-ATTISHA‘s research was accurate, Valacek said.
“If they had been public health partners, we could have prevented this catastrophe,” Valacek said.
Some lawmakers on the panel were skeptical of their depiction of events, however.
“It seems like every time government fails . . . they come back and beg for more money and more power,” Sen. Joe HUNE (R-Hamburg) told Valacek and Henry, citing citizen complaints that county officials were unresponsive to his concerns. “Please don’t act like your hands are clean.”
Those on the ground in Flint still dealing with the ramifications of the water crisis said the state has lost the trust of the community, trust that will not easily be won back unless serious changes are made.
LeAnne WALTERS — a Flint resident who spent the better part of two years fighting to get her concerns about her children’s health issues noticed and addressed by local, state and federal authorities — said the past two years have taken a “huge emotional toll” on her family.
“I have a four-year-old asking me if they’re going to die because they’re poisoned,” Walters said with emotion. “It keeps me up at night . . . these are my kids, these are everybody’s kids.”
Hune personally apologized to Walters and expressed sadness that it took so long for her family to get the recognition and attention they deserved.
“If having clean water for you and your family is an agenda, then I thank you for your agenda,” he said.
Those testifying left lawmakers with several ideas going forward — an appointed state public health ombudsman, provide better nutrition options for Flint residents, improved state water testing policies and the end of the state’s emergency manager system.
They also want government bodies to be more forthcoming with critical information, be it with other agencies, experts or the public.
Tuesday’s hearing was the third meeting of the Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency. The next committee meeting has yet to be formally scheduled.
Committee members previously questioned Auditor General Doug RINGLER and his staff regarding the office’s audit of the DEQ’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance (ODWMA). That audit concluded the department made mistakes in its interpretation of the federal Lead and Copper Rule, but found there was no clear evidence of intentional wrongdoing by employees.