News Feature | May 20, 2015

Flint Councilman Compares Water Problems To Genocide

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The debate over water contamination in Flint, MI, has gotten so heated that one lawmaker has compared the problems to "genocide."

Flint has faced water challenges, including e-coli and high trihalomethane levels, since it stopped using Detroit's water supply last year and became responsible for its own treatment processes. Since the switch to Flint River water, "residents started complaining about skin rashes and their hair falling out, likely caused by the chlorine used to kill the e-coli," Michigan Radio reported.

Some critics say the water challenges are no accident. City Council Vice President Wantwaz Davis says Governor Rick Snyder and Flint emergency manager Jerry Ambrose are attempting to commit genocide against Flint residents by means of contaminated water, according to Michigan Live. He posted the remarks on Facebook this month.

"In his Facebook post, Davis used the word genocide -- the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group -- three times in describing the city's water situation," the report said.

Davis later told reporters: "I feel the emergency manager and governor should be held more accountable... I do believe maybe five, maybe 10 years from now, some people are going to contract a disease... they cannot ever get rid of."

The governor's office reacted negatively to Davis's attack. A spokesman called the remarks "incendiary and inaccurate." A spokesman for Ambrose, the emergency manager, "said the comments are untrue and 'unnecessarily (increase) the anxiety of Flint residents about the safety of their drinking water,'" the report said.

Snyder and city officials are facing legal action over the state of Flint's water.

"The Coalition for Clean and Safe Water announced [last month] that the group has retained attorney Trachelle Young to seek legal action against the city," Michigan Live reported.

"Councilman Eric Mays, an outspoken member of the coalition, said the legal action will be aimed at the decision-makers of the city, namely the emergency manager and the governor," the report said.

April marked the one-year anniversary of the switch from Detroit water to Flint River water. Flint's water plant held a ceremony to celebrate.

“It’s been a challenging process," Mayor Dayne Walling said at the ceremony, per Michigan Radio. "There were a number of unanticipated issues. There were certainly times where you look back and say, 'we should have done this or we should have done that.'”

For more on policy and politics, visit Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center.