Flint Citizens: Help Us, Obama — You’re Our Only Hope

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Citizens and activists are begging President Barack Obama to end Flint’s water crisis ahead of the president’s Wednesday visit to the town plagued by lead-tainted water.

Obama will meet for a neighborhood round table with Flint families hurt by the city’s lead poisoning crisis. Local citizens angry about not being taken seriously will besiege Obama as he enters into the fray, which has roiled local and state government officials.

“It is time for the President to help bring this ugly mess to an end,” Flint activists Pastor Allen Overton and Rhea Suh wrote in a Monday editorial in preparation for Obama’s visit. “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.”

Suh and Overton — who lead the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Concerned Pastors for Social Action, respectively — etched some time out of their editorial to lambaste the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to act quick enough to the Flint scandal.

“Our groups petitioned the EPA to use its emergency powers to secure lead-free drinking water for the city’s residents back in October,” they wrote about the agency’s failures. “Instead of acting, the agency initially balked — for many months, despite clear knowledge of the public health crisis at hand.”

A report in March by Flint Water Advisory Task Force created by Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder blamed the EPA for much of the problems plaguing the city, claiming the agency was unlikely to properly regulate Flint’s water supply were it not for “widespread public outrage.”

“EPA failed to properly exercise its authority prior to January 2016. EPA’s conduct casts doubt on its willingness to aggressively pursue enforcement (in the absence of widespread public outrage),” the task force found.

Congress has talked about solutions ad nauseum, Overton and Suh continue, but it has also stumbled and failed to appropriately handle the crisis. Petty politics have stymied the situation as well, they added.

“President Obama, we are glad you are coming to Flint. Now help fix it,” they urged.

Obama appears to be saying things activists like Overton and Suh want to hear.

He said last week he wanted to “shine a spotlight on the fact that Flint, although extreme, is not unique.”

“We have underinvested in some of our basic infrastructure that we rely on for our public health,” Obama said. “Hopefully, it will give me a chance to speak to the nation as a whole about how we need to ensure that our air is clear, our water is clean, and that our kids are safe.”

The editorial concludes pleading for Obama and Congress to do more than just talk. “Enough,” is enough, they said, adding, Flint’s children and citizens need action from the White House right now.

“Mr. Obama,” they state, “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.”

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