Emergency Managers, Flint, Rick Snyder — February 13, 2016 at 1:31 pm

#FlintWaterCrisis news round-up: Gov, Snyder releases new emails & things are looking VERY bad for him and his administration


“Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Political Suicide” by DonkeyHotey

Gov. Snyder releases over a gigabyte of new emails, still none from 2013 and before

Gov. Syder released 1.02 GB of emails in pdf form from various departments in his administration. However, none of them are pre-2014, a time period when many of the decisions regarding Flint’s move to the Flint River as its temporary source of drinking water were being made. Still, there is a LOT of new information in these emails and much of today’s news round-up comes from analysis of them by various news outlets. If you have a burning desire to plow through the gigabyte and change of files, here are the links to all of them:

Emergency Manager & Treasurer Andy Dillon gave the okay to switch to the Flint River despite warning from DEQ

In late March 2013, a full year before Flint switched to the Flint River as the source for its drinking water under the order of its Emergency Manager and with sign-off by their boss State Treasurer Andy Dillon, DEQ officials warned them about the potential for problems. In an email sent on March 26th, Stephen Busch, a staffer in the drinking water division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) informed his superiors about problems they could anticipate making the switch. That email was then forwarded up the food chain to Treasurer Dillon. Here’s are some of the warning flags he raised:

Continuous use of the Flint River at such demand rates would:

a. Pose an increased microbial risk to public health (Flint River vs. Lake Huron source water)
b. Pose an increased risk of disinfection by-product (carcinogen) exposure to public health (Flint River vs. Lake Huron source water)
c. Trigger additional regulatory requirements under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act

Busch turned out to be 100% correct and all of these came to pass shortly after the switch was made.

Flint’s water treatment plant wasn’t prepared to handle the Flint River water but they rushed it into service anyway

Mike Glasgow, Flint’s laboratory and water quality supervisor at the time of the switch to the Flint River made it very clear in an email to DEQ officials that the city’s water treatment plant was not going to be ready to treat river water in time for the conversion from water obtained from the Detroit Water and Sewerage (DWSD). However, his superiors were blowing him off:

“I have people above me making plans to distribute water ASAP,” Laboratory & Water Quality Supervisor Mike Glasgow said in an email to the state Department of Environmental Quality on April 17, 2014. […]

“I was reluctant before, but after looking at the monitoring schedule and our current staffing, I do not anticipate giving the OK to begin sending water out anytime soon,” Glasgow’s email says. “If water is distributed from this plant in the next couple weeks, it will be against my direction.

“I need time to adequately train additional staff and to update our monitoring plans before I will feel we are ready. I will reiterate this to management above me, but they seem to have their own agenda.”

Once Darnell Earley had made the decision to move to the river as the city’s source for drinking water, the wheels were put in motion and there was no turning back. So, instead of doing it right, they rushed it through anyway because, frankly, Earley’s actions gave local staff literally no alternatives.

Once Gov. Snyder acknowledged the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water with lead, it took a month before corrosion controls were installed

On September 30th, Gov. Snyder finally acknowledged what nearly everyone else already knew: Flint had a problem with poisoned water and his administration had made mistakes, including not properly treating the water to prevent corrosion. However, it took until November 4th for his administration to finally authorize the installation of the corrosion control equipment:

Between Gov. Snyder’s admission and the approval of the corrosion control equipment, DEQ director Dan Wyant, a man with no background in water treatment or water regulations, assured the public that corrosion control had been in place the whole time. By the time he got around to approving the equipment, Flint had already switched back to DWSD water (that is already treated with phosphate for corrosion control.)

All of this happened, by the way, months after the EPA had been pushing them to begin phosphate treatment back in August:

Snyder administration officials & staffers blew off whistleblowers to cover their asses

There are heroes in the story of Flint and there are villains. The heroes are people like pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attish, Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards, and EPA staffer Miguel Del Toral. Even Gov. Snyder calls them heroes. But, back last summer when Gov. Snyder’s spokesperson was telling people in Flint to “relax”, they were cast as villains by Snyder administration officials, the true villains in this story:

Michigan regulators who failed to ensure proper corrosion control chemicals were added to Flint’s drinking water spent six months dismissing evidence of their error and considered ways to muzzle the federal expert who first sounded alarms about it. […]

“The constant second-guessing of how we interpret and implement our rules is getting tiresome,” Pat Cook, a treatment specialist at the state Department of Environmental Quality, told colleagues in a previously unreported April, 27, 2015, email after Miguel Del Toral of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5 openly questioned their compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule. […]

“If he continues to persist, we may need Liane or Director Wyant to make a call to EPA to help address his over-reaches,” Stephen Busch, state DEQ’s Lansing regional director overseeing the Flint system, told Cook and another colleague in an April 27 email.

Gov. Snyder to testify before Congress after all, pitches it as if it was his idea

After countless calls for Gov. Snyder to testify before the House Oversight & Government Reform Committeee from Congressional Democrats, state legislatures, and nearly every group in any way interested in the catastrophe in Flint, he has finally agreed to do so. But he wants everyone to know it was HIS idea:

That’s the sort of spin that hiring not one but TWO public relations firms buys you, I suppose.

State officials told the EPA they’d inform the public about the outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease nearly a year ago – and then didn’t

This is why nobody trusts the Snyder administration:

At least six Environmental Protection Agency officials discussed in late March Genesee County’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak and a suspected link to Flint’s change in water sources — and were told the state would alert the public.

No pronouncements about the outbreak were made then. […]

Thomas Poy, the ground and drinking water branch chief of EPA Region 5, told those on the March phone call that “the state is currently figuring out a communication-with-the-public plan,” according to notes from Jennifer Crooks, the EPA’s Michigan drinking water program manager.

EPA officials also offered to send resources and staff to Michigan to help deal with the deadly outbreak they hadn’t told the residents of Flint about. They were never taken up on their offer and nobody from the EPA or the Snyder administration or from Genesee County or from the city of Flint every bothered to mention it until Gov. Snyder held a press conference in January of this year.