Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Releases Emails Tied to Flint Water Crisis

Gov. Rick Snyder wants to understand how this happened.

January 20, 2016, 8:05 PM

— -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder released his collection of emails from 2014 and 2015 surrounding the toxic water crisis in Flint today, hoping, as he said in Tuesday’s State of the State address, to provide a better understanding of how the municipal emergency unfolded.

More than 270 pages of emails were released to the public and posted to the governor's website.

The state's Department of Environmental Quality first became aware of the elevated lead levels in children's blood on Aug. 23, 2015, when Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards notified the department that the school would be studying Flint water quality issues "over the next few months," the emails indicate.

At that point, the city of Flint had already determined that it needed to install corrosion control treatment into the water system leading into the Flint River, the emails read.

Flint had stopped using Detroit's water system in 2014 while a connection to Lake Huron was established. The city switched back to the Detroit system in October 2015.

The DEQ disputed Edwards' test results indicating corrosion and lead leaching in early September, a timeline of the events leading up to Flint created by the Michigan government states.

On Sept. 5, Director of Urban Initiatives Harvey Hollins said to Snyder in an email that more than 1,500 water filters had been distributed to households and that were was a "demand for more."

On Sept. 26, Snyder's chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, discussed the potential political ramifications, accusing officials in Flint of turning the crisis into "political football."

“The DEQ and DCH feel that some in Flint are taking the very sensitive issue of children's exposure to lead and trying to turn it into a political football claiming the departments are underestimating the impacts on the populations and particularly trying to shift responsibility to the state,” Muchmore wrote.

Flint residents were urged not to drink the water on Oct. 1, the timeline says. But, a press release from DEQ on Oct. 2 said that the water in Flint's system was safe to drink, "but some families with lead plumbing in their homes or service connections could experience higher levels of lead in the water that comes out of their faucets."

A message from the Flint Water Advisory Task Force to Snyder on Dec. 29 ascribed much of blame to the DEQ for the contaminated water.

On Wednesday, Snyder committed $28 million to remedy the water crisis, according to a statement, calling the funding "just one more step toward a long-term solution." He apologized to Flint residents in his state of the state address Tuesday night and promised to take "full responsibility" in solving the problem.

"No citizen of this great state should endure this kind of catastrophe," Snyder said Tuesday.

In the address, Snyder outlined the actions that were taken last October in response to the contaminated water crisis, including daily door-to-door distribution of water, water filters, filter replacements and water testing kits.

More than 21,000 homes in Flint have been visited by emergency responders and volunteers. Snyder vowed to tend to every home that needs attention "until every person has clean water every single day no matter what."

"We need to make sure this never happens again in any Michigan city," he said.

The Michigan government has made budgetary recommendations to replace water supply pipes and fixtures in Flint schools and to fund specialized staff locally in Flint for follow-up care for affected residents, Snyder said.

Provisions in the budget have also been made to keep Flint on the Detroit water line until the end of 2016, Snyder said.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said today during a U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C., that aid provided so far to Flint water is "not enough," adding that the city has been "crying" about the issue for almost two years.

President Obama and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett met with Weaver Tuesday to say that his administration will provide continued support to state and local officials. Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint on Saturday after a request from Snyder on Jan. 14.

Snyder appealed Obama's decision to deny a federal major disaster declaration for Flint, his office said in a statement Wednesday.

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