E-Mails: Gov. Snyder ignored early warnings of ‘big potential disasters’ of Flint River

Photo by Steve Neavling.
Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

New e-mails released by Gov. Rick Snyder’s office show his inner circle received early warnings about the dangers of using the Flint River for drinking water but failed to act.

In a March 2014 memo, a top Snyder official warned that switching to the river “could lead to some big potential disasters down the road.”

The memo, by Brian Larkin of Snyder’s Office of Urban Initiatives, said the “expedited timeframe is less than ideal” and was “putting a strain on the willingness of qualified vendors to participate.”

The warning to several colleagues was eventually forwarded to Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, former Snyder chief of staff Dennis Muchmore, former governor spokeswoman Sara Wurfel and advisers Bill Rustem and Dick Posthumus.

Despite the warning, the state switched to the Flint River, which led to contaminated drinking water.

The memo was among roughly 4,500 pages of e-mails and other documents, some of which were heavily redacted and sent from personal e-mail accounts.

The latest batch of records shows that state officials ignored early dangers about switching to the Flint River, which was considered a cost-cutting move until a long-term water system was built.

Snyder is spending up to $1.2 million on attorneys to handle the legal ramifications of the state’s failure to protect Flint residents.

The state switched back to Detroit’s water in October 2015 after acknowledging that it made a big mistake by ignoring early warning signs and tests that showed elevated levels of lead and other contaminates.

Previously released e-mails show that other top Snyder officials implored the governor in October 2014 to stop subjecting residents to serious health hazards in the Flint River.

Mike Gadola, then Snyder’s chief legal counsel, said in an e-mail that it was “downright scary” to continue using the Flint River as a source for drinking water.

Several investigations have been opened to determine whether criminal charges are warranted in the case.

The state also approved two recall 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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