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State Civil Rights Department says Flint water crisis may have roots in discrimination

Sep 27, 2016

Members of the Civil Rights Commission say there is evidence the Flint water crisis was partially the result of discrimination.

The Commission is working on a report that will include policy change recommendations to prevent similar problems. It's evaluating the water crisis from a civil rights perspective, and is looking at a finding of Governor Rick Snyder's Flint Water Advisory Task Force.

The Task Force found that environmental injustice played a role in the crisis and how it was handled. 

Here's an excerpt from the task force's final report which was published in March:

The facts of the Flint water crisis lead us to the inescapable conclusion that this is a case of environmental injustice. Flint residents, who are majority Black or African American and among the most impoverished of any metropolitan area in the United States, did not enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as that provided to other communities. Moreover, by virtue of their being subject to emergency management, Flint residents were not provided equal access to, and meaningful involvement in, the government decision-making process.

Agustin Arbulu is the director of the commission and he agrees that the crisis showcases environmental injustice.

"Environmental injustice, meaning the lack of fair treatment to communities of color and the lack of meaningful involvement," Arbulu says.

Arbulu and the commission want to change any discriminatory policies that were at play during the crisis. 

"I think what we would look at is in terms of a broader policy report, which would hopefully serve to change the way people look at these types of events," he says.

The report will be published next year.