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MSU experts address Flint water crisis

Posted: 3:13 PM, Jan 22, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-22 15:13:56-05

Political scientist Joshua Sapotichne and economist Eric Scorsone have conducted extensive research into state takeovers of financially beleaguered cities such as Flint and Detroit.

In their research, they find fiscal distress in cities and other local governments is not simply a local problem. State laws and policies provide state governments with extraordinary influence over the ability of cities to balance revenue and expenditures.

They recommend creating a state agency that coordinates services to local governments and offers technical support and fiscal monitoring.

Sapotichne, assistant professor of political science, can be reached at (517) 355-4859 or sapotich@msu.edu

Scorsone, founding director of the MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy, can be reached at (517) 353-9460 or scorsone@msu.edu. He’s been quoted extensively on the Flint water crisis in publications such as Time, Fortune and Christian Science Monitor.

Improving Flint’s water a major challenge

Susan Masten is a professor in MSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering who said the trouble began “when Flint switched to Flint River water they did not add a corrosion inhibitor and that resulted in significant corrosion of the pipes and the dissolution of lead into the water.”

She said treating surface water, such as the Flint River, is more challenging than treating groundwater. “Surface water tends to contain more particles and thus often requires more chemicals to treat,” Masten said. “If the addition of chemicals is not very carefully managed, then the water can become corrosive, which is what happened in Flint.”

Masten can be reached at (517) 355-2254 or masten@egr.msu.edu

Giving Flint children ‘a better chance at success’

Mona Hanna-Attisha, assistant professor of pediatrics at the MSU College of Human Medicine and director of pediatric residency at Hurley Children’s Hospital, is leading a joint venture between MSU and Hurley to address the lead exposure problem in Flint.

“The creation of this Pediatric Public Health Initiative will give Flint children a better chance at future success,” Hanna-Attisha said. “This initiative will bring in a team of experts to build a model pediatric public health program which will continue to assess, monitor and intervene to optimize children’s outcomes.”

Dean Sienko, associate dean for prevention and public health in MSU's College of Human Medicine, is also involved in the initiative.

For more information, contact Geri Kelley, College of Human Medicine, at (616) 233-1678, Geri.Kelley@hc.msu.edu, or Sarina Gleason, MSU Media Communications, at (517) 355-9742, sarina.gleason@cabs.msu.edu.

A governor’s reputation ‘lives on public opinion’

Matt Grossmann, a political scientist and new director of MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, said it’s not clear yet that the public thinks Gov. Rick Snyder is implicated in the Flint water crisis.

And while Snyder could get a publicity boost from his request for federal assistance, Grossmann suggested the governor may not get much boost from addressing the Flint crisis in his State of the State address on Jan. 19.

"We have a lot of research in political science about the effects of speeches and the general message is they don't have many effects," Grossmann told MLive.

Grossmann can address the political implications of the Flint water crisis and Snyder’s State of the State address. Grossmann can be reached at (517) 355-6672, matt@mattg.org. 

Flint crisis could cost hundreds of millions of dollars

Charles Ballard, professor of economics and director of MSU’s State of the State Survey, said it will take time to figure out the economic impact of the Flint water crisis.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. I think there are going to be long term exposures – it will cost money that somebody has to bear for decades if, as it appears, there were some children who suffered long-term damage as a result of this," Ballard told WILX-TV.

"I think we're not talking a few millions," Ballard said. "Add up all of the costs that are going to happen as a result of this crisis, they could add into the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars."

"I don't see this as dealing a crippling blow to the Michigan economy – it has dealt a crippling blow to the lives of certain people in Flint.”

Ballard can be reached at (517) 353-2961, ballard@msu.edu.