Dem rep rips Michigan response to Flint water crisis

Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump's new target: Elijah Cummings Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch Harris unveils plan to revamp infrastructure, ensure access to clean water MORE (D-Mich.) ripped Michigan's response to the water crisis in Flint, claiming there is "no doubt" that the state's efforts to fix the city's unsafe water had to do with its high rate of poverty.

Kildee, who represents Michigan’s 5th Congressional District, which houses Flint, claimed on Hill.TV's “Rising” that the state's response likely would have been stronger had a similar water crisis occurred in its wealthier cities.

“Does the state of Michigan care less because Flint was poor?” Hill.TV co-host Buck Sexton asked during an interview that aired Wednesday on "Rising."

“I don’t think there was much doubt — had the situation occurred in a wealthy, Detroit suburb, the number of blue-ribbon committees that would have been appointed overnight would have exhausted blue ribbons in the entire state of Michigan,” Kildee said.

The Michigan lawmaker added that Flint was treated as “a problem to manage” rather than a “community of people that have real aspirations and real hopes.”

Flint, home to General Motors, has one of the nation's highest rates of poverty rates, according to 2017 U.S. Census data.

Flint’s funding issues also played a major role in the contamination of its drinking water.

In 2011, the state took over Flint’s beleaguered finances, taking a number of measures meant to cut the city's costs. Among those measures included switching the city’s water being delivered from Lake Huron to water from the Flint River.

Local residents issued complaints about the water after it was switched. City, state and federal officials have been accused of ignoring, denying or covering up such complaints, after it was discovered that the city’s water was carrying dangerous amounts of lead in residents' drinking water.

In March 2017, nearly three years after the incident first came to light, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) awarded $100 million to fund water infrastructure upgrades in Flint. A few weeks later, city officials declared the city’s drinking water was safe to drink.

Kildee said Flint still has a long way to go toward full recovery. The Democrat said the social and economic impact of the water crisis will be felt for much longer than it will take to fix the city's pipes, which he estimates will take at least three years. 

"We can fix the pipes, but when it was a community that was already one of the poorest places in America...to then be known as a place that has poison water makes it really difficult to build an economy," he said. 

— Tess Bonn