FLINT, MICHIGAN, WATER CRISIS; Congressional Record Vol. 162, No. 19
(Senate - February 02, 2016)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

[Pages S454-S455]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                     FLINT, MICHIGAN, WATER CRISIS

  Mr. REID. Madam President, in recent weeks the Nation has become 
concerned, afraid, and even outraged to learn that nearly 100,000 
people who are residents of the city of Flint, MI, have been poisoned. 
About 9,000 of those poisoned are children under the age of 6 years.
  Two years ago, in an effort to pinch pennies, an unelected emergency 
manager appointed by Governor Rick Snyder switched the water supply 
from the city of Flint, MI, water source to the Flint River. Water from 
the Flint River is contaminated with lead, bacteria that causes 
Legionnaires' disease, and lots of other bad things. As a result, the 
residents of Flint, MI, were forced to drink the water.
  There is no trick photography here. This is a person in Flint, MI. 
You could go to any house you wanted to go to. This is the water that 
they were drinking and bathing in. It is hard to comprehend that this 
went on for such a long time.
  Can you imagine taking a bath in this, brushing your teeth, or 
drinking it? How about bathing a new baby? This is your little bathtub.
  Through no fault of their own, the people of Flint, MI, are being 
forced to endure a public health crisis that could have been avoided. 
This is a manmade crisis. We will never know the full extent of the 
damage to the people who live in Flint, MI--especially to the children. 
They have been harmed because they have been poisoned by the acts of 
the leadership in the State of Michigan, especially the Governor of the 
State of Michigan. The reckless decision to switch to unsafe drinking 
water was forced upon 100,000 people. These people in Flint, MI, are 
now exposed to water with high levels of lead--frighteningly high 
levels of lead--among other things. This is not just lead. There is 
bacteria, and they haven't determined the full extent of it. It is 
  I can remember when I first came to this body many, many years ago. I 
had the good fortune to chair a number of hearings in the environment 
committee dealing with lead poisoning.
  At the time that we studied it, lead poisoning was lead that children 
ingested--children who lived in developments where there were large 
amounts of lead-based paint. The children who ate this lead--not on 
purpose--were not what they could have been. It affected their brains.
  This lead in water, lead anyplace, affects the brain. It affects 
adults, too, but especially children. Lead causes serious problems for 
adults, as I mentioned, but it is especially dangerous for children, 
causing lifetime effects. You can't get well. They have a program where 
they try to take the blood out and run it through a purifier. It takes 
a long time, but there are no safe levels of lead for children.
  After the city made this wrong decision to switch its water source, 
it was really very quickly that the citizens of Flint complained that 
the water was discolored, and it also smelled. Everyone began to 
develop rashes.
  The response of State government was appalling. Rick Snyder, the 
Governor of Michigan, is one of those who berates government all the 
time. Emails released from his office just last week referred to a 
resident who said she was told by a State nurse in January 2015, a 
little over a year ago--she was complaining about her son's elevated 
blood levels. The nurse told this woman: It is just a few IQ points. It 
is not the end of the world.
  Can you imagine a health care worker telling someone: It is your 
baby, but it is just a few IQ points. No big deal. It is not the end of 
the world. This was a State nurse.
  The water was so poisonous that General Motors, the manufacturer of 
automobile parts there, stopped using the source for their Flint engine 
operations because the parts corroded during the manufacturing process. 
They had to stop using this water. People were still drinking this 
water and bathing in this water.
  Despite overwhelming evidence that a city in his State had lead 
poisoning, Governor Snyder failed to act and protect the people of 
Flint. This went on for a long time.
  As Flint struggles to recover from this terrible public health 
problem, an investigation will determine who exactly is to blame for 
this reckless decision. We know who caused the problem.
  This was a manmade disaster, as I said earlier, but now we must act 
to protect the residents of Flint. This protection should start with 
repairs to their water infrastructure. Like many cities--and there are 
quite a few in the Midwest--Flint has lead pipes, but the highly 
corrosive nature of the Flint River damaged them. It ate away at the 
insides of those pipes. Now these lead pipes are leaching into the 
clean water supply from Lake Huron. It will cost over $1 billion to 
replace Flint's corroded water infrastructure.
  The people in Flint, MI, are struggling. There has been money spent 
there. Flint had been doing quite well until this came along. There was 
a new vitality. But now people are afraid to eat in restaurants, and 
the businesses have been terribly damaged because people don't believe 
the water is pure. A lot of these restaurants, for example, put in 
their own water supply and water purification system, but people don't 
believe it. They are afraid.

  We need this done now. The State and Federal Government must 
cooperate now to end this crisis, which requires that we make 
investments. I repeat: now.
  President Obama has declared a state of emergency in Flint, MI, and 
given FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the authority to 
provide resources for the people of Flint. The problem is that right 
now they are just getting bottled water. The infrastructure is so bad.
  Governor Snyder has finally--finally--declared a state of emergency 
and finally apologized for his administration's slow response. The 
Governor's apology is too late. The residents of Flint have already 
been poisoned.
  It is too bad the people on that side of the aisle disparage the 
government all the time. It is too intrusive. It is too involved. It is 
detrimental to our society.
  The Governor of Michigan is one of the leading cheerleaders of that 
theory. He denigrates government every single chance he gets. But to 
whom does he turn when the State of Michigan is in trouble? To the 
Federal Government. When emergency strikes, the Federal Government 
steps in. That is one of the responsibilities we have to protect 
  So I hope Senate Republicans will support our efforts to protect the 
people of Flint in this time of need. Senator Murkowski--the chair of 
that important committee that has jurisdiction of the bill that is 
before this body today--is working with Senator Cantwell. They are 
committed to doing something to help in this. Let's make sure we 
support them.
  Sadly, some of the same Republicans who have called for relief when 
their States faced natural disasters are disparaging government action 
in Flint. For example, last year, Texas was devastated with historic 
flooding. But who stepped in? It was the Federal Government that 
stepped in to provide disaster relief for the people of Texas.
  That is why I was disappointed to see the senior Senator from Texas 
say: ``While we all have sympathy for what's happened in Flint, this is 
primarily a local and state responsibility.'' He didn't say that when 
the flooding was taking place in Texas.
  Last year, as Florida was hit with extreme flooding, the junior 
Senator from Florida called for Federal disaster assistance. But when 
it comes to the children and families of Flint, the Senator, who 
finished third last night in the Iowa caucuses, cautions against any 
action. This is what he said about Flint: ``I believe the federal 
government's role in some of these things (is) largely limited unless 
it involves a federal jurisdictional issue.''
  Well, the issue was that the State of Michigan didn't do what it was 
supposed to do.
  The junior Senator from Florida is not alone. Republican Senators 
routinely rush to the floor to demand Federal aid when trouble hits 
their backyard. That is the right thing to do. Americans help each 
other in times of crisis.
  This week the Senate has a chance to help the families suffering 
through a

[[Page S455]]

public health crisis. I hope Republicans who have had difficulties in 
the past and have requested Federal aid for their States won't turn 
their backs on the people of Michigan.
  If a Federal Government response is necessary for natural disasters, 
shouldn't the Federal Government help respond to these manmade 
disasters? The examples I gave in Texas and Florida were not manmade 
disasters; this is.
  We remain committed to giving the people of Flint, MI, what they need 
during this crisis--help from the Federal Government to restore clean, 
safe water. But the Federal Government cannot do it all. The people of 
Flint, MI, should understand that the Governor of Michigan is costing 
them a lot of money, and it is going to cost the taxpayers of Michigan 
a lot more because the Federal Government cannot do it all.
  Senator Stabenow and Senator Peters have proposed an amendment to the 
bill before us that provides emergency relief to address the Flint 
water crisis. I support that. The people of Flint have been poisoned. 
We owe our fellow citizens swift action to address this medical 
  I urge my colleagues, especially my Republican friends, to support 
the Stabenow-Peters amendment to give the people of Flint the relief 
they so desperately need.