A 2018 report from the Network for Public Health Law, the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and the de Beaumont Foundation details how failures in the legal structure of public health, safe drinking water, and emergency manager laws failed to mitigate the Flint water crisis. Along with key findings, the report provides recommendations to help prevent similar crises from happening in other communities.
The report outlines the complex legal arrangements at the heart of the crisis and describes how intersecting legal frameworks and implementation failures affected decisions addressing a municipality’s immediate financial crisis at the expense of the community’s long-term health.
Key findings note that public officials failed to coordinate across units or use their legal authority effectively to prevent or mitigate the crisis. The report concludes that Flint residents continued to be exposed to unsafe drinking water for over a year due primarily to the lack of adequate legal preparedness and the consequent misunderstanding about what legal authority state, local, and federal public health and environmental agencies could have used to avert or mitigate the crisis.
In addition to its analysis of the crisis, the report includes recommendations for elected officials, public health practitioners, and other stakeholders to prevent similar crises in their communities.
The report’s authors have also produced a Public Health Handbook for Communities Under Emergency Management with practical information to improve legal preparedness that is accessible and useful for both lawyers and non-lawyers.
Protecting the Public’s Health During Financial Emergencies: Lessons Learned from the Flint Water Crisis
To accompany the Handbook, the authors have developed An Emergency Manager Law Primer illustrating the variety of state emergency manager laws and describing their intersection with public health laws.