News Feature | January 13, 2017

Flint Residents Barred From Water Crisis Meeting

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Residents of Flint, MI, say they are being shut out of official discussions of the water crisis.

“Government agencies holding sway over the next steps in Flint’s nearly three-year water crisis met in Chicago on Tuesday in a controversial closed-door session,” The Detroit News reported.

“It was a meeting touted as an opportunity for officials to share testing data on the safety of city drinking water after nearly three years of contamination issues. But the decision to work out of the public eye drew criticism,” the report said.

Scheduled as part of the Water Quality Summit in Chicago, the meeting included state, federal, and academic officials, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Outside the water summit, protesters held signs and demanded that a detailed water quality report be issued, Common Dreams reported.

For Flint residents, the closed-door meeting was a reminder of the early days of the water crisis when they were not getting straight answers about water quality.

“Many residents and elected officials said the decision not to open the meeting recalled earlier days in the crisis when locals were kept in the dark about high lead readings, as well as a spike in cases of Legionnaire’s disease,” The Detroit News reported.

The activism coalition Flint Rising worked to raise concerns about the meeting’s lack of transparency. Flint Rising members shared this message on Facebook:

In Chicago, the U.S. EPA, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Virginia Tech are meeting to discuss the quality of our water and future for Flint residents. THIS MEETING IS AGAIN BEHIND CLOSED DOORS AND NOT LIVE STREAMED!! WE demand the meeting be OPEN TO FLINT RESIDENTS, IN FLINT, WITH RESIDENTS' input. Since it won't be, we DEMAND TO BE HEARD!!

Robert Kaplan, acting regional administrator for EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago, attended the meeting, according to The Detroit News. He said the topics discussed at the meeting would be made public.

“This was not a decision-making meeting,” he said. “It was all about making sure everyone understood the data, where we are — basically a snapshot in terms of water progress.”

The U.S. EPA released data from the meeting after it was held, according to MLive.