Emails Reveal Buck-Passing in Flint Water Crisis

'This issue will fade in the rearview,' aide predicted
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2016 5:49 AM CST
Updated Jan 21, 2016 6:51 AM CST
Emails Reveal Buck-Passing in Flint Water Crisis
President Obama pauses while speaking about the Flint, Mich., water crisis on Wednesday in Detroit.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has, as promised, released hundreds of pages of emails relating to Flint and its water crisis—and while there may not be anything in them that will cost him his job, members of his administration will have questions to answer about what appears to be a slow and seemingly dismissive approach to lead contamination in the city's water supply. Highlights from the emails, per the Detroit Free Press and the Guardian:

  • "Once the city connects to the new system in 2016, this issue will fade in the rearview," an aide predicted in a Feb. 1 memo.
  • The same memo mentions the pipe corrosion that was later found to be responsible for lead contaminating the city's water supply, dismissing it as an aesthetic problem. "Discoloration is not an indicator of water quality or water safety, but we recognize that nobody likes it," the aide wrote.

  • "I can't figure out why the state is responsible except that (then-treasurer Andy) Dillon did make the ultimate decision so we're not able to avoid the subject," then-chief of staff Dennis Muchmore wrote in a Sept. 25 email in which he called the issue a "political football" that those in Flint were trying to dump on the state.
  • The next day, Muchmore wrote that while Flint's water "certainly has occasional less than savory aspects like color," the "anti-everything" group was looking at lead contamination and "Flint people respond by looking for someone to blame."
  • In an Aug. 31 email from a state employee to EPA officials obtained by the Guardian separately from the Snyder emails, the employee says Flint probably wasn't paying much attention to the contamination because the "city has bigger issues on their agenda right now."
Not many of the emails came from Snyder himself, who wasn't legally required to make them public. He has said that he tackled the problem aggressively when it was revealed how serious it was. In later emails, the Republican governor demands daily updates on the Flint situation until recommendations such as the distribution of water filters have been implemented, the Free Press notes. President Obama addressed the issue when he visited Michigan on Wednesday, the New York Times adds. "The notion that immediately families were not notified, things were not shut down—that shouldn’t happen anywhere," he said in a CBS interview that will air Sunday. (Read more Flint, Michigan stories.)

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