On Monday, a committee put together by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to address the public health crisis in Flint canceled its fourth meeting in a row, claiming they was simply nothing for them to discuss.
The Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee, which Snyder formed in in the wake of the city’s lead-poisoned water crisis, has only met twice since March. On Monday, a notice sent to committee members announced the meeting scheduled for this Friday was canceled “due to no agenda items being received from FWICC members as of (Monday, Nov. 13).”
Asked why the committee has only met twice since March, Tanya Baker, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, sent Splinter this statement:
“The Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee remains committed to Flint’s recovery and finding long-term solutions for the city’s water situation. As part of that, there are some recent changes and important decisions the city must work through in the interim before committee members can take more action, including new members recently elected to the Flint City Council and current litigation about the city’s future water supply. As adjustments are made and critical issues are addressed, the committee will continue to meet and recommend action to support Flint’s long-term needs.”
Some background: In 2014, in the midst of a state budget crisis, Snyder hired emergency financial managers to find cost-saving measures. That April, the city switched its water source to the Flint River, and for 17 months, Flint used the river as its primary water source. The water led to an increase in lead exposure to Flint residents—57% of whom are black and 42% of whom live below the poverty line.
In September, two economics professors came out with a study detailing the public health impact of the Flint water crisis. The researchers concluded that Flint’s lead-poisoned water led to an increase in fetal deaths and an overall decrease in fertility. Compared to other Michigan cities, birth rates in Flint decreased by 12% while fetal death rates increased by 58%, the study found.
Michigan officials took issue with the economists’ study. One month after their report came out, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services published its own report, which found “there were no significant increases in the rates of infant mortality, stillbirth, preterm birth and low birthweight before and after the time the city changed its water source to the river.”
Hmm, I wonder if it could be useful to discuss the discrepancy between these findings in some sort of public setting? Perhaps Snyder and the state government could form a committee of sorts which would gather to address and respond to these findings. Just a thought!
Update, 11/15, 10:30 am: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Michigan governor’s office.