World Water Day 2016—Water and Jobs
Two New York Times Op-Ed Pieces Highlight Domestic Water Challenges and Solutions

Flint Water Advisory Task Force Issues Final Report on Flint Water Crisis

Torrence_Allison_COLORBy Allison A. Torrence


On March 21, 2016, the Flint Water Advisory Task Force (FWATF) issued its Final Report regarding the Flint water crisis. The FWATF is a 5-member task force appointed by Governor Rick Snyder and charged with conducting an independent review of the contamination of the Flint water supply. The FWATF report contains some harsh criticism of government actions that caused and exacerbated the Flint water crisis, concluding that "the causes of the crisis lie primarily at the feet of the state by virtue of its agencies' failures and its appointed emergency managers' misjudgments." The FWATF lays much blame on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) as well as on the state-appointed emergency manager who had replaced local representative decision-making in Flint and made the decision to switch Flint's water supply to the Flint River.

The report contains 36 findings and 44 recommendations. 

Key findings include:

  • MDEQ bears primary responsibility for the water contamination in Flint.
  • MDEQ waited months before accepting EPA's offer to engage its lead experts to help address the Flint water situation and, at times, MDEQ staff were dismissive and unresponsive.
  • The suggestion made by members of the Governor’s executive staff in October 2014 to switch back to Detroit Water should have resulted, at a minimum, in a full and comprehensive review of the water situation in Flint...It was disregarded, however, because of cost considerations and repeated assurances that the water was safe.
  • Emergency managers, not locally elected officials, made the decision to switch to the Flint River as Flint’s primary water supply source.
  • Emergency managers charged with financial reform often do not have, nor are they supported by, the necessary expertise to manage non-financial aspects of municipal government.
  • EPA failed to properly exercise its authority prior to January 2016.
  • There was and remains no justification for MDEQ not requiring corrosion control treatment for the switch of water source to the Flint River.
  • The Flint water crisis is a clear case of environmental injustice.

Key recommendations include:

  • Strengthen SDWA enforcement, most notably for the lead and copper rule. The state has the ability to strengthen its own enforcement of the SDWA and not wait for action to occur at the federal level.
  • Establish and maintain a Flint Toxic Exposure Registry to include all the children and adults residing in Flint from April 2014 to present.
  • Re-establish the Michigan Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control Commission.
  • Create a culture in state government that is not defensive about concerns and evidence that contradicts official positions, but rather is receptive and open-minded toward that information.
  • Review Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law (PA 436) and its implementation, and identify measures to compensate for the loss of the checks and balances that are provided by representative government.
  • EPA should exercise more vigor, and act more promptly, in addressing compliance violations that endanger public health.
  • Offer all children listed in the recommended Flint Toxic Exposure Registry timely access to age-appropriate screening and clinically indicated follow-up for developmental and behavioral concerns by licensed healthcare professionals, as well as access to early childhood education and nutrition services.
  • Use the occasion of the Flint water crisis to prompt local and state re-investment in critical water infrastructure, while providing mechanisms to advance affordability and universal access to water services.

The FWATF summarized their findings by saying that "the Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice."

The full report is available here.