Commission: 'Systemic racism' at root of Flint water crisis - WNEM TV 5

Commission: 'Systemic racism' at root of Flint water crisis

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This 2015 image shows a sample of Flint's water. (Source:WNEM) This 2015 image shows a sample of Flint's water. (Source:WNEM)

Michigan civil rights officials say "systemic racism" going back decades is at the core of problems that caused a lead-contaminated water crisis in the majority black city of Flint.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission issued a 130-page report Friday following three public hearings and other meetings to determine whether residents faced discrimination or racial bias.

The report says nobody "intended to poison Flint," but concludes that decisions would have been different had they concerned wealthier, predominantly white communities.

Recommendations include replacing or fixing the state's emergency-manager law to analyze the root causes of a community's financial problems.

To save money while under state control, the city used water from the Flint River for 18 months without treatment to prevent pipe corrosion. The water caused toxic lead to leach from old pipes into homes.

The findings solidified many residents' beliefs.

Arthur Woodson lives in Flint. He said he has felt that way since the city switched to the Flint River back in 2014.

"It's not racism hardly anymore. It's haves and have nots. We're a poorer community, an impoverished community and they didn't really care about anyone here," Woodson said.

Woodson said he doesn't believe what happened in Flint would have happened elsewhere.

"They give them the revenue sharing. They make sure they have their schools, everything is complete in those communities like Ann Arbor and Grosse Pointe," Woodson said.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich released this statement:

The presence of racial bias in the Flint water crisis isn’t much of a surprise to those of us who live here, but the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s affirmation that the emergency manager law disproportionately hurts communities of color is an important reminder of just how bad the policy is. Now is the time to address this flawed law. The people of Flint deserve the same level of safety, opportunity and justice that any other city in Michigan enjoys.

The commission also stressed that Michigan needs to be better prepared to manage environmental justice issues. I agree that this needs to be a priority—I have already introduced legislation for an environmental justice plan for public concerns to be heard and handled.

The commission is correct: Flint and the government need to rebuild trust. Yet the state is planning to cut off utility credits at the end of the month and our water still isn’t safe to drink from the tap. We can’t, and we won’t, trust the state until the current administration proves that it is on our side.

Gov. Rick Snyder's office issued this statement:

Some findings of the report and the recommendations are similar to those of the Flint Water After Action Task Force, the legislative panel and the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee.

The Governor takes the reporting of each of these panels very seriously, and appreciates the public input that was shared.

He has appointed an Environmental Justice Work Group to build on this work and conduct their own review statewide.

We have been and continue working to build strong relationships between state government and every community we serve, and adding accountability measures to ensure a crisis of this magnitude never happens again in Michigan.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press/WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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