You Really Can’t Make This Shit Up….

Media coverage of the Flint water crisis continues to accelerate, as the release of additional information suggests that the Governor and his office actively discouraged testing that would have confirmed residents’ fears.

The situation has sparked national outrage. (One of the more…interesting…responses has come from a Michigan militia group that has threatened to “take up arms” to protect Flint’s citizens against poisoned water. I’m not sure who they plan to shoot, or how “arms” would help, but their righteous anger is duly noted…)

What is truly incomprehensible is the continued assault on environmental safety, even in the face of this horrific example of what can happen when those safeguards are ignored–or worse, eviscerated—and even in the midst of the media’s continued focus on the issue.

Yesterday, not long after I posted about Congressional Republicans’ effort to gut the Clean Water Act, I received the following advisory from the Hoosier Environmental Council:

“This morning, SB 366 passed out of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee on a vote of 6-3. This bill would enable — by a simple vote of two county commissioners — a community to eliminate its Solid Waste Management District (SWMD); that elimination could happen anytime after June 30, 2017.

“SWMDs have been on the frontlines of protecting our drinking water sources. By working successfully to substantially increase collection of household hazardous waste as well as construction & demolition waste, SWMDs prevent serious contamination of our waters from improper disposal of such waste.” said Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. health of a community, would be adequately replaced by other programs in the community….

 Communities need strong, stable, and effective SWMDs to continue making environmental improvements; such improvements are so clearly tied to the state’s overarching goal of improving quality of life — for the sake of people’s lives and our economic competitiveness.”

Reasonable people can differ about the propriety of many government activities, but—as the reaction to Flint demonstrates— very few citizens consider protection of our air and water frivolous or unnecessary. Individuals cannot insure the purity of their own drinking water; the private sector cannot sell us clean air. We depend upon government agencies to monitor and protect these essential resources.

A commenter on yesterday’s post suggested that the real beneficiaries of weakened oversight are the large corporate farming operations that generate much of the solid waste pollution that contaminates waterways. Proper disposal of solid waste is more expensive than discharging it into a nearby stream.

If SWMDs are not operating properly, we should fix them. Allowing local county commissioners to eliminate them is both an invitation to corruption and a threat to public health.


  1. I believe it is the goal of the majority party in the Statehouse to destroy the public commons. Or at the very least, contract all of it out to their faithful donors.

  2. “Proper disposal of solid waste is more expensive than discharging it into a nearby stream.”

    The current “powers that be” in all red states are only interested in what brings money in…not what takes money out even if it involves life-and-death health issues. Obviously Flint, Michigan authorities allowed people to die to save money – wonder how many of those drinking that contaminated water voted to put them in office.

    Where are the thinking, intelligent Republicans? Due to the law of averages there must be some left in this country; where are they cowering in fear of losing their position if going against party ideals? Look what the GOP did to Senator Richard Lugar as an example.

  3. We should just cut to the chase and refer to “The Selfish Party” and “The Selfless Party.” You, know, truth in advertising and all that.

  4. Is there a back story to this vote? The SWMDs were created to address the then developing shortage of landfill volume. The SWMDs generated public interest and support for recycling. As I understood it, the landfill capacity shortage was never as serious as some thought; the public generally supported recycling.

    Recycling is a common practice at most large industrial facilities now. It is about the money – waste disposal costs; recycling sometimes provides a modest payback. More importantly, it can define the public profile of the practitioners – especially industries. There are a lot manufacturers who want their customers to know they recycle.

    Maybe it will work like RFRA – the big industries will continue to support recycling and the state legislature will look like its stuck in the 19th century, again.

  5. daleb; also, some manufacturers are using smaller packaging for products. This will aid the environment but will it cut down recycling benefits for some? (What is the latest on the Covanta plant locally?) Look at the shorter coffee canisters used by Folger’s and Maxwell House; Kroger cheese packaging states on the bag that it is smaller but contains the same amount of product. This hasn’t been true of coffee for a long time; when was the last time we could buy one full pound of coffee? The amount dropped slightly but cost remained the same till they came out with the larger canisters. Unless memory fails me; this began shortly after the death of Juan Valdez:)

  6. As for large corporate farms…. Smart ones are using their “solid” waste to make energy and save money. Win Win. But hey… this is IN. Here our Republican leaders just LOVE dirty water, Dirty air and Dirty food. It is our God given right to be free to enjoy a filthy environment… because God.

  7. Thinking of the Flint water crisis, and the ongoing attempt by Republicans to gut all Environmental protections, I thought of “The Rigger Solution.”

    In any airborne (paratrooper) unit in the US Army, some of the most important people are the Riggers. These are the soldiers who spend all day packing parachutes for other soldiers to use.

    To keep them focused on quality, the military has a simple system. Each rigger puts the ‘chutes he packs in a separate pile during the day. At any time, and it happens frequently, an officer may walk in, pick a random parachute from a rigger’s pile, hand it to him and say, “You jump this one.”

    They go straight to the runway, get on a plane, go to about 5,000 feet, and the rigger steps out into the blue, his life depending on a randomly selected parachute he packed. So, he packs each parachute as if HIS (or her) life depended on it. It well could.

    So, for politicians, I propose that they be required to drink the water, breathe the air, swim in the streams, eat the fish, etc. that they refuse to regulate or insure safe.

    The Rigger Solution.

  8. “people can differ about the propriety of many government activities”

    It’s hard to argue with these words as a philosophical construct but to be practical, yeah……but no.

    Because someone can conceive of something, it doesn’t mean that it’s on equal footing with something that is well considered and consistent with the one reality that exists.

    There is nothing to be gained by having the means of production that are necessary for everyone owned by anyone other than everyone.

    End of story.

  9. Your comments went right to the core: ” Individuals cannot insure the purity of their own drinking water; the private sector cannot sell us clean air. We depend upon government agencies to monitor and protect these essential resources.”

    Sheila, you are a real public service.

  10. As tempting as it may be for some, a crisis in municipal drinking water quality cannot be successfully addressed by partisan finger-pointers looking to place blame on a single individual or a group. The Flint, Michigan lead crisis in its municipal drinking water is not the first and won’t be the last unless this public health issue is addressed in a nonpartisan manner.

    For whatever reasons, the national media did not jump on speaking out about the widespread lead pollution of the Washington, DC, municipal drinking water supply in the early 2000’s. Not until a 2004 Washington Post investigative report was it revealed that the DC Water and Sewer Authority where the DC Mayor appoints the Board of Directors and the EPA both withheld the documented lead levels from the customers for over one year. Lawsuits continue to arrive from parents of children whose cognitive abilities were negatively impacted.

  11. I wonder how much Duke Energy, others like them and large corporations are fighting against the Clean Water Act. There have been numerous ash pond leaks that have contaminated ground water, in addition to polution of rivers by large corporations.

  12. There are many ways that toxins can be spread and many symptoms that they each can manifest. So the Flint situation needs to be carefully investigated before accountability can be determined.

    However those points about the spread and possible harm from potential toxins are very well known. For that reasons informed decisions on mitigating the risks are cautious, conservative, and careful.

    In the grand scheme of things that means that saving money on the means of production and distribution of potential agents and avenues of spreading toxins is foolhardy with big risks and small returns.

    Exactly why conservative thinking in these areas is foolish.

    When conservative thinking only risks business success it may be worth a try although in my experience the risk typically is higher than the potential return. But when the stakes are irreversible harms to human beings the smart money is on liberal thinking: the valuation of human existence as
    much higher than mere money.

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