Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson (D) represents a cross section of voters in the diverse 4th Congressional district. He has held office since 2007 and sits on the US Judiciary Committee on Armed Services and the Committee of the Judiciary. Like many Americans, Rep. Johnson was shocked over the lead–tainted water consumed by the residents of Flint. Michigan. As a congressman, he is ready to take up the call for more government action.
Rolling out recently spoke with Congressman Johnson about the Flint water crisis.
Not since the “Love Canal” incident almost 40 years ago has America seen the level of environmental disaster that is now occurring in Flint, Michigan. In your opinion, should government officials in Michigan face criminal charges over the Flint water crisis?
I’m gratified to know that a criminal investigation is underway by the FBI and other federal agencies. We will let the chips fall where they may. I will say that there has been a great level of indifference and probably incompetence and knowingly reckless behavior among some key people in state government who knew that the water was tainted with lead. They knew this long before they released this information to a suspecting public, which had been thrown off by state assurances that the water was healthy.
Flint will require major infrastructure repair; many residents will need relocation. Are you in favor of congressional legislation for this area that will potentially stretch into hundreds of millions of dollars? Love Canal cost $500-600 million to clean up a small area; the level of funding in Flint could be staggering. Are you prepared to take on that fight?
Yes. I think Congress should take immediate action and I think much of the cost should be done by the citizens of the state of Michigan, who are now sitting on a budget surplus acquired by an austerity budget cutting governor and legislature.
While they are sitting on this money, they should use it to bail out the citizens of Flint. They are responsible to the damage to the infrastructure and to the people of Flint.
The state of Michigan is getting ready to allocate between $30-36 million to the water company. Should Flint citizens have to pay for toxic waste by paying their water bills?
The citizens of Flint should actually be paid back the amount they have paid for their water service and with interest. They should be paid for consuming water that actually hut them. There has been injury to the citizens of Flint, both physical and psychologically. The damages are almost incalculable.