#FlintWaterCrisis news round-up: Gov. Snyder knew about Flint water issues 9 months before admitting it (and MORE!)


“Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Political Suicide” by DonkeyHotey

Gov. Snyder knew about Flint’s water issues nine full months before going public

Time after time after time, Gov. Rick Snyder’s response to questions about his administration’s lackadaisical response to the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water with the powerful, odorless, invisible neurotoxin lead has been “I never knew about it”. He has claimed that, until October of last year, his closest advisors and staffers kept the critical information from him, blowing a huge hole in his claims of being a superlative CEO for our state where he “runs government like a business”. We now have solid evidence that he knew there were problems as far back as February of 2015:

An email sent by Governor Rick Snyder shows that he planned to discuss “Flint water” with top staffers in February 2015 — nearly nine months before the governor claims to have known about a water crisis in Flint.

The message was sent on February 17, 2015 to the Rick for Michigan campaign email account — rather than the official state email account — of Allison Scott, the executive director to the governor, and shows that Rick Snyder wanted to personally discuss the “Flint water” situation with top officials in his administration, among other issues. The email seems to be proof that Gov. Snyder lied each and every time he claimed that his staff never brought the crisis to him and that it was not on his radar. […]

The email was not included in the January 20 email dump which calls into question his claim that he has released all of his “2014 and 2015 emails regarding Flint” following the State of the State.

You can read the email HERE.

The lies are beginning to unravel for our CEO governor. I’m beginning to hear the singing of the proverbial fat lady.

More bold response to the Flint water crisis from Gov. Snyder: he has hired outside attorneys on the taxpayers’ dime

Gov. Rick Snyder has hired two outside attorneys to help him fend off the increasing number of lawsuits which name him as a defendant. Don’t worry, though. It’s not coming out of his bank account. The taxpayers of Michigan are picking up the tab. To add insult to injury, the contracts are worth $249,000, just a thousand bucks less than the $250,000 threshold necessary to trigger an approval from the State Administrative Board:

Gov. Rick Snyder has hired two outside attorneys in connection with the Flint drinking water crisis, including a criminal defense attorney retained to serve as “investigatory counsel,” a Snyder spokesman confirmed Thursday.

Eugene Driker, a civil defense attorney, and Brian Lennon, a criminal defense attorney, were each awarded a contract worth $249,000 through Dec. 31, after which those contracts can be extended, Snyder spokesman Ari Adler told the Free Press.

The contracts, which are to be paid with state funds, are just below the $250,000 threshold for contracts requiring approval from the State Administrative Board, which meets in public to approve state contracts and grants. Adler said that was by design because the governor wanted to hire the attorneys quickly in early February.

He sure can move quickly when it benefits him, amirite?

Snyder: Costs to fix the Flint water debacle will cost over $140 million. Top House Republican says no more supplemental funding from state.

After a request from the federal government for help in dealing with the catastrophe was rejected by FEMA, Gov. Snyder has filed an appeal. In his appeal, he says the costs to fix the problems in the beleaguered city will exceed $140 million:

The cost of the Flint drinking water crisis exceeds $140 million and is growing, Gov. Rick Snyder said in an appeal filed Thursday with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as he seeks more federal funds and other resources to assist with the state response to the public health and infrastructure emergency.

“While government and independent experts say the quality of the water is improving, there is a long road ahead for Flint’s recovery,” Snyder said in a news release. “We are continuously working on ways to help the people of Flint recover from this health crisis. Assistance from our federal partners could go a long way in moving Flint forward.”

Meanwhile, Republican House Speaker Kevin Cotter is pulling the plug on any further non-budgeted state money for Flint:

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is “shocked” by the news that House Speaker Kevin Cotter doesn’t plan to take up any further supplementals in regards to the city’s water crisis.

On Wednesday, March 2 Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, said he doesn’t plan to take up any more supplementals for the Flint water crisis, according to a report by Gongwer, a subscription-based insider capitol newsletter. He went on to say other resources for the city should be considered during the overall budget process.

Cotter said it comes down to the immediacy of needs and being fiscally responsible. He said there isn’t a doubt more resources will be sent to Flint, but it needs to be considered as part of the overall budget, according to the report. That means no additional money would be sent to the city until the new budget starts on Oct. 1.

Weaver said she is shocked by Cotter’s decision given the “ongoing revelations that show the role of state government in the contaminated water catastrophe” the city continues to face.

Considering that it was a Republican-led legislature that put in place the Emergency Management system that led to this crisis and that it was epic failures within multiple departments and offices in our Republican governor’s administration that let the problem go unacknowledged and un-dealt with for months, this sort of “we’re done, you’re on your own” rhetoric is, to be blunt, disgusting. If there is truly no more funding available from the state until eight months from now, Republicans are going to have to answer some very tough questions from Michigan voters going into the November general election when Speaker Cotter and every one of his House colleagues are up for reelection.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., Republican Senator Mike Lee from Utah is holding up federal funding for Flint. I’m sensing a trend here…

Lead levels finally beginning to show signs of improvement

There is finally a bit of good news out of Flint: water lead levels are dropping and are below the action level of 15 parts per billion in 91% of the “sentinel sites” tested:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Tuesday that the most recent tests of tap water in Flint suggest that phosphates being added to the water are beginning to control corrosion and slow the leaching of lead into the public water supply. But it’s still not safe to drink unfiltered water, she acknowledged.

“For weeks, we’ve had a team of experts … going door-to-door to test residents’ water both with and without filters. Let me say this very clearly: Our tests show that NSF-certified filters are working, even at high lead levels,” McCarthy said. “So we are extremely confident in the ability … to reduce the lead to safe levels. We have done our due diligence on those filters. Our phosphate levels, for the first time, I can tell you with confidence are also improving within the water system itself and our lead levels are actually dropping in the system.”

And yet, she acknowledged much work has yet to be done to keep residents informed about what’s happening with their water, and to restore trust in government. […]

[T]he state also released optimistic news about preliminary results from the second round of water testing of about 600 sentinel sites in Flint. About 91% of samples from 423 recently added sites were at or below the federal action level of 15 parts per billion, Gov. Rick Snyder said. Concerns about lead contamination continue at just below 9 percent of the sites.

With good news hard to come by in Flint, this is certainly a welcomed change.

Resignation by disgraced former DEQ chief resisted by Lt. Gov. Calley and other administration officials

Lt. Gov. Calley has worked hard to keep his name from being associated in any way with the Flint water scandal. However, an email in the latest email dump by Gov. Snyder reveals that he thought the resignation of former DEQ Director Dan Wyant was a bad idea. In fact, he wanted to throw DEQ employees under the bus instead:

Michigan’s lieutenant governor and outgoing chief of staff both were disappointed by the resignation of Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant over the Flint water crisis, according to emails released this weekend by the administration.

“I didn’t realize Dan’s resignation was on the table,” Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said in a Dec. 29 email to deputy chief of staff Elizabeth Clement. “I know it was probably necessary from a public perception standpoint, but it is a terrible shame. He’s probably the best department head we had and it seems pretty clear he was given bad information for a period of time.” […]

“That’s the danger in managing a department of technical professions,” [Calley] wrote. “You have to trust your people. In this case, it cost their kids their health and a good man’s reputation. I hope that employees who actually did wrong will be terminated, rather than just transferred to different areas of the state.”

At the end of the day, the buck stops at the top of the organization and Dan Wyant was at the top of the organization. It’s not his fault alone, of course. It’s not his fault that Gov. Snyder chose a man with literally zero background in water issues to head up the state department that handles drinking water oversight. But Wyant was a failure at his job and Lt. Gov. Calley’s interest in sacrificing his underlings to save Wyant’s job is, to be blunt once again, disgusting.

City of Flint to begin replacing lead water service lines today, state still waiting for infrastructure report

154 days after Gov. Rick Snyder admitted that the drinking water of many Flint residents was poisoned with lead, the city of Flint is planning to begin the process of replacing lead water services lines. The state, however, is still waiting for an infrastructure report:

The city of Flint has targeted Thursday, March 3 as the day to begin lead service line replacements, as the state awaits results of a water infrastructure study being conducted by a Flint company.

Kristin Moore, Flint’s public information officer, confirmed replacement of lines will start under the $55 million Fast Start plan by Mayor Karen Weaver which calls for homes at highest risk in the city to have replacement begin first — homes with children, pregnant women and autoimmune illnesses. […]

Gov. Rick Snyder announced a partnership last month with Flint-based Rowe Professional Services and Flint officials to conduct a water infrastructure study, with a March 15 date to complete the study to identify the types of all service lines in the city and replacement of 30 lead lines.

Snyder has cautioned against replacing lines too quickly, noting Virginia Tech professor has advised on allowing re-coating of pipes, but he said line replacement is necessary to remedy the situation.

You can’t accuse Gov. Snyder of acting “too quickly”, that’s for sure.

Petition signature gathering for Snyder recall effort to begin next Tuesday, March 8th

The organizers of the effort to recall Gov. Rick Snyder will begin collecting signatures on primary day, next Tuesday, March 8th:

Organizers of a recall effort against Gov. Rick Snyder plan on using the March 8 presidential primary as a launching point in efforts to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to get the language on a ballot.

The recall petition that’s been approved states the reasoning as “Governor Richard D. Snyder declared a state of emergency in the County of Genesee and the City of Flint pursuant to the constitution of the state of Michigan and provisions of Act No. 390 of the Public Acts of 1976, filed with the Secretary of State on January 5, 2016, and ending on February 1, 2016, unless extended as provided by Act No. 390.”

But organizers still need to collect the 789,133 signatures in 60 days within a 180-day window to get the item placed on a future ballot.

An effort will be made to have volunteers at polling sites around the state next week, as well as Easter Sunday at churches.

Their effort is needed because Gov. Snyder has made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of resigning.

Flint activists learn the cost of speaking out, rejected for state appointments

This is nauseating:

Pastors who spoke out on the Flint water crisis paid the price with Gov. Rick Snyder’s inner circle — one losing support for a possible appointment and another becoming the subject of insult.

Dennis Muchmore, Snyder’s former chief of staff, suggested the Rev. Alfred Harris of Flint cost himself consideration for a spot on the city’s Receivership Transition Advisory Board in an April email after the pastor called a news conference to discuss a lack of progress on Flint water issues.

“Well, that didn’t help at all,” Muchmore wrote to Harvey Hollins, director of the state’s Office of Urban Initiatives, in an April 8, 2015, email. “So much for Harris on the RTAB.”

Six minutes later, Hollins responded, “That’s unfortunate because he is one of the most reasonable voices in Flint on this issue.”

Less than three weeks later, Snyder appointed the five-member Flint RTAB, which has maintained governing oversight in the city since, leaving Harris off the list.

Let that be a lesson to all of you: if you exercise your First Amendment right of freedom of speech, don’t plan on having a voice in how your community is run if the state in charge of it and you don’t say nice things about them. This is, to be blunt one more time, disgusting.