A plan to use the Flint River as Flint, Michigan’s primary water source was initially rejected by a commission appointed by the state’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, but the governor’s office overruled officials and carried the plan forward anyway.
According to The Daily Beast, Flint’s emergency manager rejected the plan to go off of Detroit city water and use water from the Flint in 2012. However, Snyder’s office overruled that objection and used water from the Flint anyway, setting in motion a chain of events that has led to a lead contamination crisis.
Curt Guyette of the Michigan ACLU wrote that Snyder tasked Flint emergency manager Ed Kurtz and city financial manager Jerry Ambrose with restructuring Flint’s city government to cut costs, one of which was the city’s reliance on water from Detroit for its municipal water.
Ambrose testified under oath in 2014 that Kurtz considered using water from the Flint River for the city’s drinking water, but rejected it after consulting the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The plan was found “not to be feasible,” Ambrose told attorney Alec Gibbs during a trial over a separate Snyder administration imbroglio.
“Who determined it wasn’t feasible?” Gibbs asked.
“It was a collective decision of the emergency management team based on conversations with the MDEQ that indicated they would not be supportive of the use of the Flint River on a long-term basis as a primary source of water,” replied the embattled financial manager.
“What was the reason they gave?” asked Gibbs.
“You’ll have to ask them,” Ambrose dodged.
Guyette wrote, “How could the river that was rejected as Flint’s permanent water source in December 2012 suddenly become suitable for consumption a mere 16 months later?”
Howard Croft — former Flint director of public works — told the ACLU of Michigan that the decision to use the corrosive water came straight from Snyder’s office.
In his ACLU interview, Croft said that the decision to go against the environmental department’s warning was financially motivated and that responsibility goes “(a)ll the way to the governor’s office.”
Snyder has also been less-than-forthcoming regarding the final decision to cut off the flow of water from Detroit. The city of Detroit offered to continue to work with Flint, but Snyder has publicly maintained that Detroit refused to continue to provide water for Flint.
“If the governor really wants to come clean he needs to start telling the whole truth,” Guyette said, “not just convenient pieces of it.”
He went on to call for the release of all of Snyder’s emails regarding the matter, rather than the hand-chosen cache of correspondence Snyder has already made public.
“Snyder can help shed light on that by releasing all of his emails — both from both his government account and any personal email accounts that he might have used to conduct state business — going back to at least as early as the start of 2012 when members of his own administration considered and rejected using Flint’s river,” Guyette continued.
“Given his willingness to release two years’ worth of emails, turning over documents from another two years should be no problem for a governor committed to transparency.”