Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has released more than 200 pages of emails regarding the Flint water crisis. The exchanges record mounting complaints by the public, some of which elected officials dismissed.
The governor released the nearly 300 emails on Wednesday, just one day after he apologized to the residents of Flint for the way he handled the water crisis, which has led to thousands of citizens’ exposure to lead due to corroded water pipes.
The emails show that it took months of receiving complaints from the public before state officials admitted that the city was in the midst of a major public health emergency.
Up until then, officials, including the governor’s chief of staff Dennis Muchmore, seemed to belittle complaints from critics.
“Now we have the anti everything group turning to the lead content which is a concern for everyone Of course, some of the Flint people respond by looking for someone to blame instead of working to reduce anxiety,” Muchmore wrote in a Sept. 26 email, noting that officials were working to resolve the issue.
He added: “We can’t tolerate increased lead levels in any event, but it’s really the city’s water system that needs to deal with it.”
In an email just one day earlier, Muchmore wrote that the water issue in Flint was “a challenging topic,” and added that the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Community Health feel that some Flint residents were trying to turn the lead issue “into a political football.”
The correspondence also shows officials downplaying the findings of a local pediatrician, who was one of the first to complain about high lead levels in patients.
It was not until months later, in January, that Snyder declared a state of emergency as a result of the crisis.
On Tuesday, he promised to seek $28 million in state funds to provide Flint residents with bottled water and filters, health care for children in the city and improvements to the city’s infrastructure.
“To you, the people of Flint, I say tonight as I have before: I am sorry and I will fix it,” Snyder said during his State of the State address on Tuesday.
“No citizen of this great state should endure this kind of catastrophe,” he continued. “Government failed you – federal, state and local leaders – by breaking the trust you place in us.”