Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday released a third tranche of documents related to the lead-tainted water emergency in Flint that is largely being blamed on his administration. The emails show state officials — including top Snyder aides — raised issues about the water supply before the lead contamination was uncovered in September.
Here is some of what they said and when:
— Dennis Muchmore, Snyder’s former chief of staff: In July 2015, he wrote emails to two department directors warning that Flint residents who had complained about the smell, taste and appearance of the water and had raised health concerns were “basically getting blown off.”
In early September, after Snyder’s office quietly helped distribute filters to Flint pastors concerned about water quality, he wrote to a treasury official that it “makes no sense” to reconnect the city to Detroit’s water system. The state would do just that a month later after lead contamination was exposed. In March, after he was forwarded a resident’s threat to city officials about an “environmental racism” lawsuit against the majority-black city, he wrote an email to state officials suggesting potentially buying bottled water to distribute through churches, saying “If we procrastinate much longer in doing something direct we’ll have real trouble.”
— Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s current chief of staff: In January 2015, as communications director he received an email from Ari Adler, a special projects manager, reacting to a newspaper story about Flint’s water. “This is a public relations crisis — because of a real or perceived problem is irrelevant — waiting to explode nationally,” Adler wrote. “If Flint had been hit with a natural disaster that affected its water system, the state would be stepping in to provide bottled water and other assistance. What can we do given the current circumstances?”
— Mike Gadola, Snyder’s chief legal counsel and now an appeals court judge: He wrote in October 2014 that using Flint River water was “downright scary,” and noted that his mother lived in the city and he grew up there. “Nice to know she’s drinking water with elevated chlorine levels and fecal coliform,” he said, adding, “They should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control.”
— Valerie Brader, Snyder’s senior policy adviser and deputy legal counsel and now executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy: In October 2014, she emailed other top Snyder officials asking to request that Flint’s state-appointed emergency manger return to buying water from Detroit’s water system. She alluded to problems with a carcinogenic disinfectant byproduct, known as trihalomethane.
— Brad Wurfel, former communications director for Michigan Department of Environmental Quality: In January 2015, after Snyder’s then-deputy press secretary Dave Murray emailed him to talk about the administration’s event in Flint related to water, cautioned that “I don’t want my director to say publicly that the water in Flint is safe until we get the results of some county health department epidemiological traceback work on 42 cases of Legionnaires disease in Genesee County since last May.” Snyder did not alert the public to the outbreak until almost a year later, saying he had not been told until days before.
— Harvey Hollins, Snyder’s director of urban affairs: In March 2015, he received an email from Wurfel about a “significant uptick” in Legionnaires’ cases. Wurfel said it was “beyond irresponsible” for a county health official to link the disease to the river without an adequate investigation. He copied then-DEQ director Dan Wyant on the email. Three days later, Wurfel forwarded the email to Agen. Agen said Friday he inadvertently failed to open the email and was “mad” that he did not see it.
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