Video: E-mails show Michigan began providing clean water to state employees in Flint … a year ago

posted at 4:41 pm on January 29, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

Update: Some are suggesting that there is less to this than meets the eye:

Follow the link to see the e-mail string. The issue in the alert, which came from the city of Flint originally, wasn’t lead (as the article below notes and I pointed out), but elevated levels of trihalomethane (TTHM) in the water. These form as a byproduct of chlorination in drinking water, and a certain level is acceptable in water. The TTHM level in Flint rose to the level of an alert, though, and prompted the state to supply bottled water to its employees. Should that not have also alerted them to look a little closer at Flint’s water quality, especially given its recent change in sourcing? If it appeared that “certain state departments are concerned with Flint’s WQ,” as the district engineer reported after being contacted by Michigan’s state DEQ, shouldn’t that have prompted follow-up by both the district and the state DEQ officials in the loop? Maybe it wouldn’t have taken another eight or nine months to do something about the lead.

In the end, we still have state employees (and local officials) discussing something wrong with Flint’s WQ, the state supplying their employees with bottled water in order to avoid it, but no one effectively following up to see what exactly the problem was and the risks present for everyone else for another several months.

Original post follows:

This puts the Flint water crisis, and the government response to it, in a new and more unpleasant light. E-mails within state government show that officials knew something was wrong with Flint’s water at least a year ago, although possibly not the lead contamination that has enraged the city’s residents. Apparently, the state government had one standard of water for its own employees, and another for the hoi polloi:

Michigan offered fresh bottled water for state employees in Flint starting in January 2015, although residents were told that tap water was safe to drink until last fall, a state official said.

Flint residents are now warned to drink only filtered or bottled water because of lead contamination in the city’s supply.

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the agency that manages state buildings, said water coolers were introduced at the State Office Building after Flint flunked some drinking water standards that weren’t related to lead.

“We have provided it continuously. That was a decision we made as the building owner” in Flint, said Buhs.

My, my, my. It took several more months before the state intervened to stop consumption of Flint’s tap water. There is no evidence that the state took steps to warn residents at the same time it spent money to provide its employees with a “choice” of water supplies. After Progress Michigan published the e-mails, Governor Rick Snyder insisted, “I had no knowledge of that taking place” — but certainly someone did. And those someones who arranged for alternate drinking water knew the existing water supply was unhealthy at least as early as January 2015.

The lesson seems pretty stark — the governing class takes care of its own, and not necessarily the people who put them in those jobs.

The Washington Post’s Janell Ross wonders why Republican presidential candidates are taking so long to come up to speed on this crisis:

There are more than 8,000 children in that city of roughly 99,000 people whose brains, impulse control and learning ability may have been permanently damaged by lead in Flint’s drinking water. Their lives, their futures and those of their families and probably the entire town have been forever changed. This is the sort of situation that should have anyone promising to “solve problems” — as Kasich said during his closing debate remarks — transfixed.

In truth, Kasich was really just the guy on the debate stage who happened to draw the Flint question. Off-stage, in the days leading up to the debate, others demonstrated a utter absence of knowledge of events in Flint, too. Some candidates just seemed far more interested in the politics and political gamesmanship around the situation than the health crisis at hand.

Perhaps there is a reluctance to pile on Snyder until everything comes out. It’s also worth noting that, besides the emergency response under way now, there would be little any president could do to resolve it.  But that doesn’t excuse the candidates from recognizing it as a big issue at the moment, one that speaks to the failure of government to deliver on basic services.

As such, this seems like a pretty good opportunity to remind people why accountability matters, and of the value of subsidiarity as well. Michigan isn’t a small-government state, and the EPA under Barack Obama can hardly be described as laissez-faire.It stacks right up with the Veterans Administration as examples of this dynamic, a scandal on which Republican candidates have been campaigning hard, and for good reason.  This, along with the EPA’s disastrous handling of the Animas River spill, demonstrates the incompetence and flat-out arrogance of interventionist government run by big bureaucracies more interested in self-preservation than serving a free citizenry.

 


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Comments

Clean water for me
Poison for thee

Your gov’t, living off your taxes.

Schadenfreude on January 29, 2016 at 4:43 PM

Uh oh. Spaghettios lead poisoning.

libfreesMom on January 29, 2016 at 4:44 PM

Ed,

Consider would you like a couple tips on this story?

Christien on January 29, 2016 at 4:46 PM

Lefties ONLY care about “government accountability” if it involves ending the political career of a Republican.

gwelf on January 29, 2016 at 4:46 PM

Consider

Christien on January 29, 2016 at 4:47 PM

Michigan isn’t a small-government state, and the EPA under Barack Obama can hardly be described as laissez-faire.It stacks right up with the Veterans Administration as examples of this dynamic,

The best argument against big govedrnment is the actions of those who are in favor of big government. Nothing will be ssolved until the bureaucrats involved start going to jail.

rbj on January 29, 2016 at 4:49 PM

Yay Democrats!

The Notorious G.O.P on January 29, 2016 at 4:49 PM

It’s also how they come out of public office as multi-millionaires. They know things before the public does. Good to be the king.

RBMN on January 29, 2016 at 4:50 PM

Republicans/Democrats…they’re all about enriching their own pockets. They lie to us for votes and then that’s it. Not surprised…

Politricks on January 29, 2016 at 4:50 PM

We shouldn’t give the EPA such a hard time. They’ve been too busy stealing land from private citizens and destroying businesses to be bothered with assuring clean water is delivered to poor children.

vnvet on January 29, 2016 at 4:53 PM

Unbelievable.

Not only do I have to put up with left-wing propaganda on the local news, I get it on Hot Air too.

Fact: Flint Water Dept sent out notices to ALL of their customers informing them high levels of TTHM (chlorine), and that infants, pregnant women and elderly should limit their water consumption until the levels fall back under EPA guideline.

Fact: 3 days after this notice went out, the State of Michigan provided drinking water to their employees at their building in Flint.

This had nothing to with the lead, which wouldn’t be detected in the water for many months later.

Quit with the propganda

Browndog on January 29, 2016 at 4:57 PM

There is a husband and wife team, both Repubs IIRC. One works PR for Snyder, and the other for DEQ.

I will hook you up, if you want. Just say the word.

Christien on January 29, 2016 at 5:01 PM

Browndog,

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Christien on January 29, 2016 at 5:03 PM

Flint water is safe. The standards for lead are ridiculous.

And the bottled water that people are sending? Is not regulated or tested at all.

kcewa on January 29, 2016 at 5:17 PM

Don’t often disagree with you Ed, but think you’re wrong here. Read the original emails. It looks like what happened is the city said “no corrective actions are needed, but there is an issue with our water”. In response a state building put water coolers by their water fountains – while still leaving the fountains on for people who preferred those. That’s a perfectly reasonable response after the city tells you there is a minor water issue. There’s no conspiracy here, a state agency was told there was a minor problem and reacted in a minor way.

David Shane on January 29, 2016 at 5:22 PM

Video: E-mails show Michigan began providing clean water to state employees in Flint … a year ago

Could have been 5 years ago… sadly, if you were not among the folks that were affected it just doesn’t matter… Scream at your Congress Critter…
Not. A. National. Problem…

The EPA makes their own standards and enforces them via law enforcement… Oh, did I mention they are NOT ELECTED?

Voodoo Chile on January 29, 2016 at 5:25 PM

Wait’ll we find out that the bottled water came through some democratic bundler/government contractor who gave Michigan the absolute bottom-we’re-not-making-a-dime-on-this price of 12.00 a bottle.
Because nothing’s too good for our AFSCME members/permanent Democrat voters. Nor our loyal bundlers.

orangemtl on January 29, 2016 at 5:28 PM

well….I was gonna say something else but a well works for me :)

dmacleo on January 29, 2016 at 5:29 PM

I have a question. If the president is supposed to have something to say about this crisis…..what does this say about Obama’s handling of it?

clement on January 29, 2016 at 5:36 PM

Michigan offered fresh bottled water for state employees in Flint starting in January 2015, although residents were told that tap water was safe to drink until last fall, a state official said.

IIRC, that was the same month that Detroit offered to put Flint back on their water supply and was refused by Flint’s Democrat Mayor, who insisted that Flint’s water was fine.

GrumpyOldFart on January 29, 2016 at 5:42 PM

It’s too late. Snyder has already apologized, so the Dims have their scalp and narrative to accuse Republicans of.

Brian in Titletown on January 29, 2016 at 5:54 PM

Soon to be Dem talking point – after they have Snyder’s scalp – Wasn’t Gerald Ford from Michigan ? Sounds like this must be his fault too.

builderD on January 29, 2016 at 6:01 PM

IIRC, that was the same month that Detroit offered to put Flint back on their water supply and was refused by Flint’s Democrat Mayor, who insisted that Flint’s water was fine.

I haven’t been following this all that close, but why haven’t they taken Detroit on their offer the minute this started to gain national attention? Or have they?

lowandslow on January 29, 2016 at 6:10 PM

I haven’t been following this all that close, but why haven’t they taken Detroit on their offer the minute this started to gain national attention? Or have they?

They’re on Detroit water. Snyder ponied up $5Million in taxpayer money to switch them back to Detroit water as soon as he found out about the lead.

Thing is, Flint had to use Flint River water because Detroit tried to extort them by doubling their water rates.

None of the principles that are to blame for this debacle (and there are many) are even mentioned.

This is a partisan witch hunt.

Disclaimer: I can’t stand Snyder

Browndog on January 29, 2016 at 6:32 PM

Nothing will be ssolved[sic] until the bureaucrats involved start going to jail.

rbj on January 29, 2016 at 4:49 PM

I’ve been saying this very thing myself for years. And yet when I talk about passing nullification acts in state legislatures to finally start holding FedGov accountable, I am reminded of how “unrealistic” this is. Good luck with that.

gryphon202 on January 30, 2016 at 1:23 PM

They’re on Detroit water. Snyder ponied up $5Million in taxpayer money to switch them back to Detroit water as soon as he found out about the lead.

Thing is, Flint had to use Flint River water because Detroit tried to extort them by doubling their water rates.

None of the principles that are to blame for this debacle (and there are many) are even mentioned.

This is a partisan witch hunt.

Disclaimer: I can’t stand Snyder

Browndog on January 29, 2016 at 6:32 PM

There may be no clean hands in this when it’s all said and done, but I don’t really think Snyder is to blame for all this either. Municipal authorities are responsible for water testing.

gryphon202 on January 30, 2016 at 1:25 PM

Thousands of cities across this country have lead gasketed cast iron water mains…perhaps every city. This isn’t and hasn’t been a problem of large lead levels in water. What has changed is the EPA’s allowable lead levels in drinking water and the recent ability to test to ppb that cities are increasingly in violation of new lower standards. Mind you these are the same lead concentrations that were considered “safe” for the last 50 years. It will take decades and billions of dollars before these pipe are all replaced. This entire issue is a rouse that will transfer millions if not billions of dollars to the democrat coffers and nothing more. Nothing has changes except a fascist environmental agency rules designed to cripple this nation. Yes, I am a civil engineer with 30+ years experience in exactly what they are now claiming.

trs on January 30, 2016 at 8:27 PM

This is nothing more than attempted murder of all the citizens of Flint, MI. Time to turn the tables.

earlgrey on January 30, 2016 at 10:48 PM