Flint Water Crisis Inquiry: Black Citizens ‘Disproportionately Affected’ By Crisis

The Flint water crisis caused “long-lasting” and “disproportionate” damage to African-American neighborhoods in Flint, Michigan, says the 116-page report released today by the Flint Water Crisis task force. Confirming what many critics have long suspected about the Flint water crisis, the report details how black neighborhoods suffered “disproportionately” compared to white neighborhoods, and how blame can be laid at every level of local, state, and federal government.

“Flint residents, who are majority black or African-American and among the most impoverished of any metropolitan area in the United States did not enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as that provided to other communities,” concluded the report released today, reports the New York Times.


The Flint water crisis report was authored by an independent panel investigating the crisis, reports NPR, and one of the major conclusions in the report suggests that local, state, and federal government officials were to blame for their failure to address or adequately notify residents of the poisonous water. New details have emerged as the report was released today, in particular that black neighborhoods suffered “environmental injustice” because of the Michigan government and Gov. Rick Snyder’s office.

“Environmental injustice is not about overt acts of racism, it’s not about motivation, it’s not about deliberate attacks on a certain population group. It’s about equal treatment,” said Ken Sikkema, a member of the independent panel who authored the Flint water crisis report.

Members of the Flint water crisis panel caution against assigning racist motivations to culpable city and state officials, but did state that the report proves – unequivocally – that black, and poor neighborhoods, were “disproportionately” affected by the crisis due to “environmental injustice” rather than direct racist motivation.

“They missed the boat completely, they never backed off on those decisions, no matter how many red flags they saw,” said Chris Kolb, a member of the Flint Water Crisis task force.

Kolb, president of the Michigan Environmental Council claims that the report proves that local officials behaved irresponsibly, and ignored “red flags,” no matter how many times those flags were raised by citizens or by their own research. Kolb compared the city and state’s handling of the Flint water crisis to “playing a game of whack-a-mole.”

“Every time an issue came up, [citizens] asked about it, they were told it’s being taken care of, it’s solved, and then another issue would come up. At some point though, you have to say, ‘wait a second, my gut is telling me something’s wrong,’ ” said Chris Kolb, a member of the Flint Water Crisis task force.

The key findings in the 116-page report, illustrate that the state and local government overlooked several important warning signs that should have told them something was wrong, and that the population of Flint would suffer if those problems weren’t addressed.


Namely, the report suggests very strongly that there was little to no communication or coordination between government agencies. Each one had an idea that something was wrong with the water in Flint, but they did precious little to inform one another of their findings.

Additionally, the report clearly finds that the Flint water crisis was caused as a direct result of a decision made by the state-appointed emergency manager – an individual appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to oversee the city’s utilities. The emergency manager, according to the report, unilaterally made the decision to switch the city’s water source to the Flint River.

“The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice,” reads the report released today by the independent Flint Water Crisis investigative panel.

Governor Snyder has stated that the report contains many “good recommendations,” but hasn’t commented on his own personal culpability, which the report suggests with powerful evidence.

[Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images]