Michigan state government officials were telling local citizens in Flint that their water was safe to drink even though steps were being taken to put coolers full of purified water in Flint’s state office building. According to emails obtained by Progress Michigan, an advocacy group, this was done to ensure that government employees would not have to drink ordinary tap water.
The emails reveal that on January 7, 2015, a notice from Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget advised of a notice about violation of drinking water standards that had been published the City of Flint. The email read, “While the City of Flint states that corrective actions are not necessary, DTMB is in the process of providing a water cooler on each occupied floor, positioned near the water foundation, so you can choose which water to drink.” The email added that the cooolers would be provided “as long as the public water does not meet treatment requirements.”
The state provided water coolers as a result of the contamination issues the city was experiencing. The coolers are still being provided. However, despite a continuous stream of reports from various sources about the presence of lead in Flint’s drinking water, it was not until October 1 that Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, acknowledged that the contamination was a serious health problem. Lonnige Scott said that the state government’s response to the crisis was not as tardy as initially believed. She told the Detroit Free Press, “While residents were being told to relax and not worry about the water, the Snyder administration was taking steps to limit exposure in its own building.”
In January 2015, citizens in Flint were complaining about discoloration and foul odors present in their water. At that point concerns about the presence of toxic lead had not been raised. However, the incidence of unexplained rashes and illnesses, sick pets, and that General Motors had announced it had stopped using Flint water because it was too corrosive to metal parts, should have been taken as a sign that heavy metals such as lead were leaching into the water.
Several state officials were suspended or have departed from government service since widespread scrutiny was brought to bear on Flint. Among them are: Stephen Busch of DTMB and Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant. Among federal officials who have departed government service are Susan Hedman, the former regional director for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Much of the blame has been focused on Gov. Snyder and the former state-mandated Emergency Manager, Darnell Earley. Leftists and progressives have called for the resignation and criminal prosecution of Snyder because of the state’s delay in addressing the contamination in Flint. However, despite the fact that the federal EPA was aware of Flint’s failure to adequately treat its water, no such calls have been made on President Obama. Also, despite an ongoing investigation and several lawsuits, no local officials, managers, or technicians have yet come under scrutiny.