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.