In what’s looking like an executive CYA move (and outside pressure), Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder released a flurry of emails this week relating to the Flint, Mich., water crisis, essentially throwing his staff under the bus for the disastrous, heinous debacle that has gotten worldwide attention and even led to calls for his arrest.
Snyder, under fire since news of Flint’s poisonous water supply broke, is holding on by a string, especially given that it was his policies—specifically the Emergency Manager Act—that many believe led to the calamity in the first place. This week, the heads have begun to roll, including that of the area’s regional Environmental Protection Agency boss, who resigned Thursday.
Occupy Democrats reports that Snyder released some 274 pages of emails between 2014 and 2015 related to Flint, the most significant of them (those of “high importance”) so heavily redacted that they are basically unreadable.
What did come through, however, was the Snyder administration’s callous dismissal of complaints from the people of Flint, who had been complaining of foul-smelling, brownish water for some time—water that turned out to contain high levels of dangerous, poisonous lead, coliform and even fecal bacteria—saying that they were overly concerned with “aesthetics.”
A Sept. 25, 2015, email from Snyder’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, to the governor is perhaps most damning, accusing the people of Flint of using their children’s lead exposure as a “political football.”
The New York Times reports that Muchmore wrote that the two state agencies responsible for health and environmental regulation “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.”
The email continues: “I can’t figure out why the state is responsible except that Dillon did make the ultimate decision so we’re not able to avoid the subject,” he said, in a reference to Andy Dillon, then the state treasurer.
The Times also reports that from the time in 2014 that the city began drawing its water from the Flint River (as opposed to water from Lake Huron), officials were not only dismissing concerns but also “celebrating” because the switch allowed the city to save $1 million to $2 million per year, according to emails.
Sadly, the Times also notes that within months of the switch, a General Motors engine plant in Flint found that the city’s water was corroding metal and stopped using it, as did a hospital and local university.
But, alas, the city did not.