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Time for Obama to Bring Flint Water Crisis Mess to an End

More than 50 people protested on Monday, April 25, 2016 in front of City Hall in downtown Flint, showing their continued disdain on the two-year anniversary of the date the drinking water source was switched to the Flint River with the push of a button. (Photo: Jake May/MLive)


That is the single word we have for the President when he arrives in Flint.

President Obama deserves recognition for acknowledging the Flint water crisis before other decision makers would. His words helped push City, State and EPA officials to finally move on the issue. His trip to Flint this week will help keep the issue in the public eye. For that, we thank him.

But the Flint Water Crisis has been allowed to fester for two years. Enough.

This nation has already taken lead out of our paint, our gasoline, and our toys. But it persists in Flint's water today. Enough."This nation has already taken lead out of our paint, our gasoline, and our toys. But it persists in Flint's water today. Enough."

It is time for the President to help bring this ugly mess to an end. And that means taking the fix out of the hands of the folks who made the mistake to begin with and have moved far too slowly to resolve it. Our organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Concerned Pastors for Social Action — along with the ACLU of Michigan and local residents — felt compelled to sue these authorities on behalf of citizens who were given contaminated water to drink and then given excuses instead of remedies when they complained.

We are asking for federal court oversight of this crisis.


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Our groups petitioned the EPA to use its emergency powers to secure lead-free drinking water for the city's residents back in October. Instead of acting, the agency initially balked — for many months, despite clear knowledge of the public health crisis at hand. Mr. Obama, your words changed that situation. And today there is still a clear—and essential—federal role as Michigan and Congress dither. Leadership and resources are still desperately needed to fix the situation.

The state is not getting it done. We have pointed out clear holes in the safety net that have resulted in people still not getting reliable access to bottled water...two years later. The elderly, immigrants and some marginalized communities are not being served. Faith groups and nonprofits in the area are doing amazing work to try to fill the gaps, but that is not a tenable solution. Enough.

Congress has talked about this problem, but petty politics have prevented the resources from flowing to Flint adding insult to literal injury. Enough.

President Obama, we are glad you are coming to Flint. Now help fix it. This community deserves accountability, transparency, and justice, in addition to water that is safe to drink. At this point, it looks like these are only going to come with your concerted help.

Flint is the rare government failure that manages to shock and disgust conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, and independents in equal measure. But that also means it presents a rare opportunity for all Americans to come together to demand action. The laws regulating our tap water are in sore and urgent need of updating. We need a national campaign to replace and improve our drinking-water infrastructure. None of these things are likely to happen without your leadership in Washington. If they do not move forward, what happened in Flint could happen again elsewhere, and soon. Enough.

Please bring all the resources of the White House to finally address the needs of this city and its people. The nation needs to hear a strong and clear commitment to invest in the essential water infrastructure that all Americans rely on. Mr. Obama, let's fix this city and then start the work needed to get the lead out of the water across our nation to ensure that what comes out of every kitchen tap across America is safe for our kids to drink. Flint was enough.

Allen Overton

Pastor Allen Overton is a member of Concerned Pastors for Social Action with lifelong ties to Flint.

Rhea Suh

Rhea Suh

Rhea Suh is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

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