The New York Times runs them together: Many, many questions remain about what happened at Flint.
Beyond that, a wide range of questions have gone unexplored about lead exposure in other locations.
The truth is, no one at our big news orgs actually cares about any of this. They've gone through the motions concerning Flint and concerning lead exposure.
As with almost everything else, the basic reporting is very poor. Consider an apparent conflation performed today by the New York Times' Julie Bosman.
In a front-page news report, Bosman described the final report by Michigan's task force on Flint. In the highlighted passage, she seems to run two separate questions together:
BOSMAN (3/24/16): The 116-page report faulted local Flint officials and an overly deferential federal Environmental Protection Agency, and concluded that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency responsible for monitoring the water supply, had “primary responsibility for the water contamination in Flint.” That agency, it said, “caused this crisis to happen.”In the highlighted passage, Bosman seems to run two separate questions together. She seems to criticize "the decision to switch [on a temporary basis] to the Flint River as Flint’s primary water supply source," along with "the failure to add crucial chemicals to the city water supply to block pipe corrosion."
The report said that ineptitude and inadequate systems in the state’s health department had “prolonged the Flint water crisis.” And it concluded that the emergency managers whose decisions led to the contamination also bore responsibility for the tainted water supply.
“Emergency managers, not locally elected officials, made the decision to switch to the Flint River as Flint’s primary water supply source,” the report said.
The decision to switch the water source—and the failure to add crucial chemicals to the city water supply to block pipe corrosion, the source of the water’s lead contamination—was made in an attempt to save money, the report says. And it warned that emergency managers, who are usually appointed to deal with governments that are in dire financial crisis, as was the case in Flint, were not equipped to handle health and environmental issues, which demand a special expertise.
As far as we know, those are entirely separate questions. Let's start with a basic question we've never seen anyone answer:
Was anything intrinsically wrong with the decision to use the Flint River as Flint's primary water source on a temporary basis?
As far as we know, the answer to that question is no. As far as we know, if the water had been treated correctly, major problems would not have arisen.
That said, we've never seen anyone address that question directly. Our big news orgs simply don't care about such basic matters. Concerning Flint, our big orgs have gone through the motions.
As far as we know, the decision to use the Flint River wasn't wrong on its face. On the other hand, consider that second question:
Was something intrinsically wrong with the failure to apply corrosion controls?
As far as we know, the answer to that question is flatly and plainly yes. As far as we know, it was the failure to treat the water which caused this mess, not the initial decision to use the river.
Are we right in that understanding? We aren't completely sure. At the New York Times, they assign people like Bosman to handle the case. She seems to run these questions together.
From this morning's headline on down, the New York Times mainly seems interested in discussing "environmental justice." At the Times, the basic facts can go hang.
At an org like the Maddow Show, questions like these are ignored altogether. From the start, Maddow has used these events as a way to fashion a childish demonological tale about one of her favorite villains. She has made zero attempt to clarify any basic questions at all, whether about what happened in Flint or about wider lead issues.
Rachel Maddow shows no sign of caring about any of that.
As our culture awaits the sea, our journalists simply aren't very sharp, and they don't especially care. Whenever we read that everyone was exposed to lead back in the day, we think about the miserable work performed by these strangely flawed people.