State workers in Flint given clean water long before residents warned of hazards

water cooler

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

Ten months before Gov. Rick Snyder publicly acknowledged the water from the Flint River was unsafe to drink, the state quietly supplied clean water to its workers in Flint in January 2015.

Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder

The discovery comes from a document obtained by Progress Michigan, raising more suspicions that state officials knew the water was dangerous to drink long before they acknowledged it in October 2015.

The state Department of Technology, Management and Budget sent the document in response to concerns over the water quality, installing water coolers on each occupied floor of state buildings in Flint.

Two months after installing the coolers, a Snyder spokesman was dismissive when prepping officials on how to handle a meeting in Flint about the water quality.

“It’s not like an eminent threat to public health,” David Murray, deputy press secretary for Snyder, wrote in an e-mail to state officials, including the governor.

Thousands of people have been poisoned by high levels of lead because state officials did not address complaints about the water quality for more than a year after complaints were first raised.

“It appears the state wasn’t as slow as we first thought in responding the Flint water crisis,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, a liberal group. “Sadly, the only response was to protect the Snyder administration from future liability and not to protect the children of Flint from lead poisoning.
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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.”

Gov. Snyder lied: Flint water switch was not about saving money, records suggest

E-mails also suggest the state Department of Environmental Quality, which long denied problems with the water, was aware of the dangers.

“Another day and another example of the Snyder administration’s lackluster response to this crisis. Worse yet, this shows that the response was not only late and so far ineffective, but it was also unequal,” Scott said. “Gov. Snyder needs to explain to the people of Flint why his administration trucked water into a state building while allowing residents to drink unsafe water.”

Snyder’s office wouldn’t respond to our questions.

On Thursday, state officials rejected two petitions to remove Snyder from office.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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