This is a reminder that 1,598 days after it began, the water crisis in Flint is still not completely over. They keep saying the water is better and that things are improving—but at the end of the day, is anything really being accomplished?
The picture in the header is from two-and-a-half years ago, back when Flint residents could still get bottled water for free. Those days are over now, but the residents are still afraid to drink from their faucets.
The city is in the process of replacing lead and galvanized service lines to homes, and the money for the project is being drawn from a $167 million pool of state and federal funds designated for water system improvements. The city files reimbursement requests for work contractors have done on the water lines, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality processes them .
Or that’s how it’s supposed to work. DEQ is accusing the city of taking too long to file requests and providing incomplete documentation when requests are filed, according to a report from MLive. In a recent update report, the agency said the city has about $2 million worth of reimbursement requests that have not been processed because of incomplete documentation.
That information was listed as part of an update report the agency is required to make as part of a settlement agreement between the city, the state and the American Civil Liberties union.
DEQ spokeswoman Tiffany Brown told MLive in an email “There has not been a formal letter/response from DEQ to the city regarding the reimbursement requests. The state and the city continue to work together on processing the requests, and what’s included in that settlement agreement status report is just an update on the requests for reimbursement that have been denied in full or part.”
On Aug. 13, the city said in a news release that it had submitted reimbursement requests by the state deadline for the period of April to July 2018. The DEQ update says that the $2 million request lacks “backup documentation and details.”
It is worth noting that the DEQ has previously said Flint has only used 17 percent of the allocated funds as of July 25. That’s just $27.9 million.
And while the city’s chief financial officer has blamed the problems on “staffing challenges,” MLive reports that the state has previously offered Flint help with that problem.
The CFO, Hughey Newsome, declined.
All of this is strange considering the city’s ambitious plan to replace lead service lines in resident homes before the end of the year.
As part of Mayor Karen Weaver’s FAST Start Initiative, the city planned to replace lead tainted pipes in 6,000 homes. As of Aug. 20, 729 Flint homes had service lines replaced. Lead lines have been replaced in 6,896 homes since March 2016.
The saga continues.
As the city and state play a game of “Who Can Be the Pettiest,” the people who matter still face an uncertain future.
It’s like Flint is a political microcosm of our lives under the Trump administration. They keep telling us they’re making it better while accomplishing nothing at all.