News Feature | March 11, 2016

Clinton, Sanders Weigh In On Water Infrastructure And Flint

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

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The Democratic presidential campaigns swept in and out of Flint, MI, last week for a debate ahead of the Michigan primary.

Aiming to bring attention to the lead contamination disaster in Flint, the candidates provided clues on how they see the proper role of regulators in the daily work of treatment plant operators.

So, what did the candidates have to say about the water crisis? Both candidates cited a failure of government.

"It is raining lead in Flint and the state is derelict in not coming with the money that is required," Clinton said, per the Detroit Free Press.

"I believe that the governor of this state should understand that his dereliction of duty was irresponsible," Sanders said.

Sanders called for improvements in water and wastewater systems.

“Cities and towns are struggling, in order to provide basic services. Among many other things, we need to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, our water systems, our wastewater plants, our roads and our bridges. The wealthiest country in the history of the world has got to get its priorities right, take care of the people, no more tax breaks for billionaires,” he said, per a New York Times transcript of the debate.

Clinton pointed out that Flint is hardly alone and called for government accountability when it comes to water contamination.

“This is not the only place where this kind of action is needed. We have a lot of communities right now in our country where the level of toxins in the water, including lead, are way above what anybody should tolerate. We have a higher rate of tested lead in people in Cleveland than in Flint. So I’m not satisfied with just doing everything we must do for Flint. I want to tackle this problem across the board. And if people know about it and they’re not acting, and they’re in the government at any level, they should be forced to resign,” she said.

At a separate debate in Detroit, MI, Republican candidate Marco Rubio also weighed in on Flint, calling it a “systemic breakdown at every level of government.”

“There is a proper role for the government to play at the federal level, in helping local communities to respond to a catastrophe of this kind, not just to deal with the people that have been impacted by it, but to ensure that something like this never happens again,” Rubio said, per MSNBC.

With all the political attention thrust on Flint in recent weeks, how is the city making out?

“While Flint and its lead-contaminated drinking water have become almost a sacred cause among national Democratic leaders, residents of its hardest-hit neighborhoods say they’ve seen little benefit from the political spotlight shining on them. That includes Clinton’s own visit to the city early last month, when she declared that ‘what happened in Flint is immoral,’” Politico reported.

“Five months after state authorities announced that it was unsafe to drink unfiltered water because of high lead levels caused by government errors over the past two years, federal officials said here last week that the water still was not safe, and, as testing goes on, offered no promise for when it would be,” The New York Times reported.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.

Image credit: "2016.02.09 Presidential Campaign New Hampshire USA 02817," Ted Eytan © 2016, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/