Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder suspended two state workers Friday over Flint’s toxic water scandal, which also threatens his governorship, Reuters reports.
The two unidentified Department of Environmental Quality managers have been suspended without pay. But under civil service rules, they will return to the payroll after seven days, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Officials expect their internal investigation of the two managers to last a couple of weeks. The investigation could result in the employees’ being fired.
“Some DEQ actions lacked common sense and that resulted in this terrible tragedy in Flint,” Snyder said in a statement. “I look forward to the results of the investigation to ensure these mistakes don’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, a state-appointed board on Friday reinstated some authority to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. This move restores powers to local government that were under controversial state oversight through an emergency manager.
“This is a positive step forward for the city of Flint,” Snyder said in a statement. “Mayor Weaver will now have the authority to appoint the city administrator and all department heads. Today’s action is the next step in transitioning to full, local control in Flint.”
Flint’s water crisis stems from a switch by officials of the city’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014 to save money. But water from the polluted river caused the city’s pipes to corrode and seep toxic levels of lead into the drinking water.
Flint residents complained immediately about their water’s odor, taste and color. But officials ignored their complaints and downplayed medical evidence of elevated lead levels in children.
Critics say that state officials knew for months that the water supply was unsafe before Snyder finally decided to declare a state of emergency on Jan. 5 and seek help from Washington.
Snyder apologized for what he called a “catastrophe.” But he dismisses claims of environmental racism, which say that the crisis happened because Flint’s residents are mostly black and poor. Snyder also rejects calls for his resignation.