For more than two years, the people of Flint have been dealing with a water contamination crisis that has exposed thousands of children to high lead levels. The city, the state, and the federal government are still struggling to get the crisis under control. Last week, the EPA told Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Karen Weaver that the city’s water treatment plant is under-staffed and inadequately operated.
As the crisis unfolded, reporters with Bridge Magazine were some of the most vigilant in exposing the governmental failures that led to the contamination, as well as the human impact that followed. Bridge is now publishing what it believes to be the first book about the Flint water crisis.
Poison on Tap: How Government Failed Flint and the Heroes That Fought Back will be available this Wednesday from online booksellers.
John Bebow, President and CEO of the Center for Michigan, which operates Bridge, joins Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson to talk about the book.
The book is constructed around a timeline to organize the high-volume release of government documents during the crisis, and is designed to be understandable. Bridge wants to confront “revisionist history,” he says.
“The government response…ranged from gutless, to unbelievably incompetent, to heroic,” says Bebow.
The crisis has many roots, says Bebow, from finances to regional rivalry. He emphasized that for all of the ineffective participants, there are also a lot of heroes. Some of the most exemplary, he says, are the residents of Flint for their use of front-level democracy.
“They would not take no for an answer,” says Bebow. “They knew that their water was not safe. They could feel it in their bones, they could feel it on their skin, and they would not be denied.”
Click the audio link above to hear more of this conversation.