Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders had plenty to say about the Flint drinking water crisis in Sunday night’s debate in Flint.
How much of it was true?
Hillary Clinton’s claims
Claim: “It is raining lead in Flint and the state is derelict in not coming forward in not coming forward with the money that is required.”
Assessment: Whether the state has put enough money into fixing the lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water is open to debate, Clinton is also correct when she says the state of Michigan has not drawn upon the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which has a balance of close to $500 million. But it is false to say the state has not appropriated money to address the problem.
The Michigan Legislature has so far approved $67.4 million for Flint and Gov. Rick Snyder has requested additional appropriations of $165 million.
Claim: “The people here in the region who knew about this … have been eliminated from the EPA.”
Assessment: False. As host Anderson Cooper has pointed out, only one U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official has lost a job over the Flint drinking water crisis: Susan Hedman, regional administrator for the EPA’s Chicago-based region 5, submitted her resignation in January, effective Feb. 1,
E-mails released under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act show other EPA officials were aware of concerns raised about possible lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water in the summer of 2015, because of the disclosure that the City of Flint was not using corrosion control chemicals in its treatment of drinking water taken from the Flint River.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ claims
Claim: “Children in Flint, Michigan, in the United States of America, in the year 2016, are being poisoned.”
Assessment: No children in Flint should be getting poisoned today, since officials have taken numerous steps since Oct. 1 to alert residents to the potential dangers of drinking unfiltered Flint water, including going door-to-door throughout the city.
But Sanders is correct that children were being poisoned from about April 2014, when the city switched its drinking water source from the Detroit system to the Flint River, until at least Oct. 1, when the state finally acknowledged a lead contamination problem due to inadequate treatment of the Flint River water.
It’s not known how may children or adults were exposed to unsafe levels of lead, which can cause permanent brain damage and other health problems. But the state is assuming that anyone who drank the water was exposed to unsafe levels of lead.
Claim: “I believe that the governor of this state should understand that his dereliction of duty was irresponsible.”
Assessment: Gov. Rick Snyder recently said that he is kicking himself every day for not connecting the dots more quickly on the lead contamination of Flint water, as well as other problems with the water, which may be linked to nine deaths from a surge in cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area.
Critics have also said Snyder should have acted more quickly after acknowledging the problem around Oct. 1. He did not declare a state of emergency in Flint until Jan. 5.
But most experts, and a task force appointed by Snyder, agree that the main reason the lead contamination happened is because the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and officials in the Flint Water Treatment Plant failed to add needed corrosion control chemicals to the Flint River water. There is no evidence that Snyder played any part in the decision to not add corrosion control chemicals to the water, or that he was even aware of it.
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.
Flint presidential Democratic debate coverage roundup:
* Fact checking Clinton’s, Sanders’ claims about Flint water crisis
* Misfires on Flint water, trade in CNN’s Democratic presidential debate
* Explaining Hillary Clinton’s, Bernie Sanders’ votes on the auto bailout
* Hillary Clinton says Gov. Rick Snyder should resign or be recalled
* Hundreds rally for wages, Flint help outside Democratic debate
* Live photos from the Democratic presidential debate in Flint
* Poll: Clinton has big lead on Sanders in Michigan
* Bernie Sanders’ op-ed to the Free Press
* How to watch CNN’s Democratic presidential debate live from Flint
* Flint residents lose faith in politicians, feel exploited
* Endorsements: Clinton, Kasich best candidates for primaries
* February 4: Clinton, Sanders set for debate in Flint
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