Davis and independent Flint panel cite environmental injustice, EMF system, and other key factors

April 11, 2016

An independent panel convened by Gov. Rick Snyder in the wake of the Flint water crisis concluded that government disregard for low-income residents and people of color contributed to the delay in action, according to a recent New York Times article

Ford School Professor Dr. Matthew Davis was one of the five panel members who investigated the events leading up to the crisis. Together, they published a 116-page report in March 2016 listing 36 findings and concluding that what happened in Flint “is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction and environmental injustice.”

The report also makes 44 recommendations, including that the governor’s office review Michigan’s controversial emergency manager law. “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 panel also called on the governor to issue an Executive Order, mandating guidance and training on environmental justice across all state agencies in Michigan. 

After the report’s release, panelist Chris Kolb spoke with students in Rusty Hills’ PubPol 423 course about his work on the panel and the role of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “They missed the boat completely,” said Kolb, a former state representative and current president of the Michigan Environmental Council. “They never backed off on those decisions no matter how many red flags they saw.”

Dr. Matthew M. Davis is professor of pediatrics and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System and professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Dr. Davis' current work focuses on vaccination policy issues, child and family health insurance issues, innovations in health care delivery, and bringing the public voice to the national dialogue about child and family health and health policy issues.