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A Truth Squad companion/Public sector

Disaster Day by Day: A detailed Flint crisis timeline

EDITOR’S NOTE: This timeline was updated on February 16, 2016 to include new entries related to the Genesee County Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak and additional entries concerning state and local reaction to the Flint lead crisis. These new entries are based on thousands of additional emails and other records released by Governor Rick Snyder’s office on February 12. 

This timeline was updated a second time on March 1, 2016 based on thousands of additional emails released by Governor Snyder’s office. The most recent additions are highlighted in green. 

This portion of the timeline encompasses 2004 – 2014
To move ahead to Part 2 (January 2015 – June 2015), click here
To move ahead to Part 3 (July 2015 – present) click here

This timeline seeks to present as complete a picture of the Flint water disaster as can reasonably be provided at this time from information currently in the public sphere.

There are few completely new revelations here. The intended value here is to present concerned citizens and policymakers with the full weight, detail and step-by-step context of the Flint saga all in one place and in one narrative.  What transpired? Who said what? Who did what? What are the details? Answering those questions as completely as possible at this point in time requires the more than 30,000 words in this timeline.

We hope those who invest the time to read the entire timeline will find it useful in sorting fact from fiction and spin from credible analysis. We also hope this timeline helps counteract against the present and future risk of revisionist history in all directions.

In many places, Truth Squad adds clarifying commentary and questions below to help readers interpret events – and to ask additional questions themselves.

The Michigan Truth Squad is a project of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine. Center for Michigan President and CEO John Bebow compiled this timeline and authored the Truth Squad analyses herein. Bridge Editor David Zeman fact-checked and edited this report.

We compiled this timeline from approximately 1,000 pages of public documents and published reports, including: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Health and Human Service email records first obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and published by Virginia Tech professor and water expert Marc Edwards; email records released by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder; other local, state and federal documents from the City of Flint, Michigan Department of Treasury, Michigan Auditor General, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; a peer-reviewed study published in a February 2016 medical journal; and, various media reports as cited below. State and federal government directories were accessed to identify titles for public employees referenced in this timeline.

Numerous state and federal investigations of the Flint crisis are ongoing. Therefore, a wide range of additional documents and revelations may eventually become public. We welcome readers’ feedback, debate, and additional submissions in the comments section below this document.


February 2004: A technical assessment of the Flint River raises concerns about using the river for drinking water. Key points of the “Source Water Assessment Report for the City of Flint Water Supply – Flint River Emergency Intake” prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Flint Water Utilities Department:

  • “(T)he emergency intake for the Flint Water Treatment Plant has a very high degree of sensitivity to potential contaminants. When the effects of agricultural and urban runoff in the Flint River watershed are considered, the Flint intake is categorized as very highly sensitive.”
  • “The source water area for the Flint emergency intake includes 96 potential contaminant sources.”
  • “The potential contaminant sources, in combination with the very highly sensitive intake, indicate that the Flint emergency intake source water is very highly susceptible to potential contamination.
  • “However, it is noted that when operating, the City of Flint Water Treatment Plant has effectively treated this source water to meet drinking water standards.”

(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: For many years, the City of Flint bought water from the Detroit drinking water system. But the Flint Water Treatment plant retained access to the Flint River for emergency backup purposes. As this timeline fully outlines, Flint – with official approval from its state-appointed manager and State Treasurer Andy Dillon, but also with support of local officials – switched to the Flint River as its drinking water source in spring 2014. This was designed as a temporary move while awaiting the new Karegnondi Water Authority regional drinking water pipeline from Lake Huron to come online in late 2016.)


July 2011: Report from Rowe Engineering titled “Analysis of the Flint River as a Permanent Water Supply for the City of Flint.” Prepared for the City of Flint. Key points:

  • “Preliminary analysis indicates that water from the river can be treated to meet current regulations’ however, additional treatment will be required than for Lake Huron water. This results in higher operating costs that the alternative of anew Lake Huron supply…. (A)esthetics of the finished water will be different than from Lake Huron. As an example, the temperature of water supplied to customers during the summer will be warmer than the present Lake Huron supply, because of the increased summer temperature in the relatively shallow river.”
  • “A detailed investigation of potential sources of contamination has not been completed.”

November, 29, 2011: “Flint becomes the fourth city in the state brought under control of an emergency manager… after a review team shows accumulated deficits of $25.7 million.” (As reported by the Detroit Free Press, January 2016.)


May 9, 2012: Letter from Flint Department of Public Works Director Howard Croft to MDEQ District Engineer Mike Prysby: “The Karegnondi Water Authority has the potential to be a major factor in our region’s economic development efforts. The City of Flint is pleased to be a partner in the process and we pledge to offer our assets to support the development. We appreciate your technical support as we develop our components of the project.”

June 2012: Flint emergency manager Mike Brown asks the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) for permission to blend Flint River water with DWSD water to save Flint between $2 million and $3 million annually. (As reported in the Michigan Department of Treasury Flint Water Timeline, September 2015.)

November 2012: A successor Flint emergency manager Ed Kurtz writes to state Treasurer Andy Dillon suggesting that the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) is the best long-term option for Flint water due to rising costs from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), projected at $23 million per year by the year 2020. (As reported in the Michigan Department of Treasury Flint Water Timeline, September 2015.) The KWA positions itself as an example of local government control for entities in Genesee, Lapeer, and Sanilac counties roughly an hour’s drive north of Detroit. As the KWA website currently states in February 2016, “By joining the group it will give you more control over the costs and the water. Currently, you purchase finished water from the (Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) with no input as to the cost. As a member of the group, you will purchase raw water and treat it to your own standards. As a member, you will participate in establishing the cost and rates for the water.”


January 23, 2013: Email from MDEQ’s Prysby to colleague Liane Shekter Smith and others about feasibility of Flint switching to the Flint River… “I agree that the city should have concerns of fully utilizing the Flint River (100%) for the following: the need to soften, the potential for more advanced treatment after next round of crypto monitoring, available capacity in Flint River at 100-year low flow, residuals management (disposal of lime sludge).”

February 2013: Engineering study ordered by state Treasury Department concludes KWA is the cheaper option for Flint water. (As reported in the Michigan Department of Treasury Flint Water Timeline, September 2015.)

March 2013: Flint City Council endorses joining the Karegnondi Water Authority. (As reported in the Michigan Department of Treasury Flint Water Timeline, September 2015.) MLive coverage, headlined “Flint City Council approves resolution to buy water from Karegnondi, state approval still needed,” documents considerable local support for the switch:

  • “We got there, that’s the important thing.” – Flint City Councilman Joshua Freeman.
  • “Going with Karegnondi is the best decision.” – Rebecca Fedewa, Flint River Watershed Coalition
  • “It’s a historic night for the city of Flint.” – Flint Mayor Dayne Walling.
  • The only dissenting vote was from Councilman Bryan Nolden. “I just feel like the Flint River is our best option,” he said.

(Truth Squad Note: The council’s vote is symbolic; with the city under control of a state-appointed emergency manager, the council vote is not binding. Final decision to switch from DWSD to KWA was made by state treasurer Andy Dillon.

March 26, 2013: Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright, who is not party to the water contract, nevertheless writes a letter of support for the decision: “I have said from the beginning that this decision must be made by Flint’s City Council and Mayor. I appreciate the council voting the way they did, but even more than that, I am glad the residents of Flint were able to have their voices heard via their elected officials… There is a basic tenet of government is best when it has local control. We saw that with the council vote. Nobody, whether they live in Flint, Grand Blanc, Davison, Fenton, or anywhere in Genesee County, should have these types of decisions made by people who live outside their community.”

March 26, 2013: Email from Michael Alexander at MDEQ to colleagues Stephen Busch, Christine Alexander, and William Creal. Email titled “Flint River Intake Location.”

  • Based on the listing form Michigan’s 2012 Integrated Report, the Flint River from just upstream of the City of Flint to the upstream end of the Holloway Reservoir is not meeting its designated uses for:
    • Fish consumption due to PCB in fish tissue and water column
    • Total and partial body contact due to E. coli in water column
    • Other indigenous aquatic life due to nutrients and phosphorus in the water column.

These are just the major categories for the designated uses currently not being met within this subject stretch of the Flint River.”

March 26, 2013: Email from Stephen Busch (MDEQ) to MDEQ Director Dan Wyant with Liane Shekter Smith and other MDEQ staff copied. Key points – warnings about Flint River water quality. The memo is written “in preparation for a call” same day with the office of State Treasurer Andy Dillon:

  • “All contract options with DWSD that are considered semi-competitive with the KWA contract do not fully supply the City of Flint, and would require the City of Flint to meet a significant, if not majority, of its water demands by treating water from the Flint River. Continuous use of the Flint River at such demand rates would:
  • Pose an increased microbial risk to public health (Flint River vs. Lake Huron source water)
  • Pose an increased risk of disinfection by-product (carcinogen) exposure to public health (Flint River vs. Lake Huron source water)
  • Trigger additional regulatory requirements under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.”

March 27, 2013: Email from Jim Sygo (MDEQ) to colleague Steven Busch regarding possible Flint water switches:

  • “As you might guess we are in a situation with Emergency Financial Managers so it’s entirely possible that they will be making decisions relative to cost. The concern in either situation is that a compliant supply of source water and drinking water can be supplied.”

March 28, 2013: Email from State Treasurer Andy Dillon to Governor Rick Snyder, with copies to numerous other Treasury officials and MDEQ Director Dan Wyant:

  • “Governor, based upon today’s presentations to the DEQ by the City of Flint, KWA and the engineering firm (Tucker Young) Treasury hired to vet the options as to whether Flint should stay with DWSD or join KWA, I am recommending we support the City of Flint’s decision to join KWA. The City’s Emergency Manager, Mayor, and City Council all support this decision. Dan Wyant likewise concurs and will confirm via email.”
  • “We have a briefing call tomorrow morning with Dennis and John to provide more background as to why we reached this conclusion. Flint’s Emergency Manager wants to sign the resolution asap as the project is moving forward with or without them and their participation affects the design and the construction season is upon them. I assume DWSD will make a last ditch effort to save the customer but I will not advise them of my recommendation until we brief Dennis and John.”

April 1, 2013: The DWSD “responds to Flint’s decision, issuing a statement that Flint’s plans will not save money. The statement also says Flint has ‘launched the greatest water war in Michigan history’ and that it will result in higher prices for the department’s other customers.” (As reported by the Detroit Free Press, January 2016.)

April 2013: State Treasurer Andy Dillon gives state emergency manager Ed Kurtz permission to notify the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department that it would be terminating service in the future and contracting with the KWA. (As reported in the Michigan Department of Treasury Flint Water Timeline, September 2015.)

April 15, 2013: “The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department provides a best and final offer to the City of Flint. Analyses by Flint Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz, the Department of Environmental Quality and Treasury’s Office of Fiscal Responsibility independently conclude that the Karegnondi Water Authority option is cheaper for the City of Flint.” (As reported in the Michigan Department of Treasury Flint Water Timeline, September 2015.)

April 16, 2013: “Flint Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz informs the State Treasurer that the city will join KWA. This decision was officially announced May 1, 2013.” (As reported in the Michigan Department of Treasury Flint Water Timeline, September 2015 and in a December 2015 Michigan Auditor General investigation report.)

April 17, 2013: DWSD transmits letter to Flint emergency manager Kurtz terminating service to the City of Flint, effective exactly one year later, April 17, 2014. (As reported in the Michigan Department of Treasury Flint Water Timeline, September 2015.)

June 2013: KWA breaks ground, completion expected in late 2016. (From October 2014 MDEQ briefing to the Snyder Administration.)

June 21 2013: Emergency Manager Kurtz signs contract with engineering company to prepare the Flint water treatment plant to begin using the Flint River as primary source of water. Here’s the contract.

June 29, 2013: All-day meeting of Flint, Genesee County Drain Commissioner and MDEQ officials where they discuss feasibility of using Flint River until KWA is ready. (As reported by the Detroit Free Press, January 2016) 

August 2013: Rowe Professional Services completes an engineering proposal for improvements that would allow Flint to draw water continuously from the Flint River in lieu of DWSD service. (From October 2014 MDEQ briefing to the Snyder Administration.)


March 7, 2014: Another Flint Emergency Manager, Darnell Earley, sends letter to DWSD saying Flint will switch to the Flint River as primary source of water, and disconnect from DWSD. Here’s the letter.

March 26, 2014: Email from Steven Busch to Liane Shekter Smith and Richard Benzie, MDEQ chief of field operations for the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance: “One of the things we didn’t get to today that I would like to make sure everyone is on the same page on is what Flint will be required to do in order to start using their plant full time. Because the plant is setup for emergency use, they could startup at any time, but starting up for continuous operation will carry significant changes in regulatory requirements so there is a very gray area as to what we consider for startup.”

April 16, 2014: Warning from Michael Glasgow, a water treatment plant operator for the City of Flint, to Adam Rosenthal at MDEQ:

  • “I am expecting changes to our Water Quality Monitoring parameters, and possibly our DBP on lead & copper monitoring plan… Any information would be appreciated, because it looks as if we will be starting the plant up tomorrow and are being pushed to start distributing water as soon as possible… I would like to make sure we are monitoring, reporting and meeting requirements before I give the OK to start distributing water.”

April 17, 2014: Warning from Flint Water Treatment Plant’s Michael Glasgow to Adam Rosenthal, Mike Prysby, and Stephen Busch at MDEQ:

  • “I assumed there would be dramatic changes to our monitoring. I have people above me making plans to distribute water ASAP. I was reluctant before, but after looking at the monitoring schedule and our current staffing, I do not anticipate giving the OK to begin sending water our anytime soon. If water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction. I need time to adequately train additional staff and to update our monitoring plans before I will feel we are ready. I will reiterate this to management above me, but they seem to have their own agenda.”

April 23, 2014: Email from Steve Busch to MDEQ colleague Brad Wurfel discussing talking points for a public meeting in Flint regarding drinking water. Busch raises this talking point… “While the Department is satisfied with the City’s ability to treat water from the Flint River, the Department looks forward to the long term solution of continued operation of the City of Flint Water Treatment Plant using water from the KWA as a more consistent and higher quality source water.”

April 24: 2014: Email from Daugherty Johnson, City of Flint Utilities Administrator, to Flint colleague Howard Croft, and Mike Prysby and Stephen Busch at MDEQ:

  • “As you are aware, the City has undergone extensive upgrades to our Water Treatment Plant and its associated facilities. Our intentions and efforts have been to operate our facility as the primary drinking water source for the City of Flint. Through consultation with your office and our engineering firm we’ve developed a system of redundant electrical systems, treatment processes and adequate finished water storage to negate the need for a signed backup agreement with DWSD due to their termination of our contract. Upon inspection of these facilities would you convey your concurrence that there is no regulatory requirement for us to sign up a back up agreement with DWSD.”

April 25, 2014: Flint officially begins using Flint River as temporary primary water source. City press release touts that “officials from the City of Flint, the Genesee County Drain Commission, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality were all on hand to witness the historic event.” The press release notes that the city used the Flint River as a temporary source of drinking water at numerous points in the past and said, “Each temporary stint on local water proved three things to city employees and residents alike: That a transition to local river water could be done seamlessly, and that it was both sensible and safe for us to use our own water as a primary water source in Flint.” Flint DPW Director Howard Croft states in the press release, “The test results have shown that our water is not only safe, but of the high quality that Flint customers have come to expect. We are proud of that end result.” Flint Mayor Dayne Walling states. “It’s regular, good, pure drinking water, and it’s right in our backyard. This is the first step in the right direction for Flint, as we take this monumental step forward in controlling the future of our community’s most precious resource.”

May 15, 2014: Email from Jennifer Crooks (EPA) to colleagues Mindy Eisenberg, Thomas Poy and Tinka Hyde:

“A Mr. Lathan Jefferson has talked with Tinka, and also with me just now about his drinking water quality. Flint has just switched from Detroit water (from Lake Huron) to Flint River water within the past couple of weeks. Flint River quality is not great, but there is a surface water treatment plan producing water that is currently meeting SDWA standards, according to the MI DEQ district engineer, Mike Prysby. The water has more hardness, and pH and alkalinity may be different from Detroit water…. Mr. Jefferson said he and many people have rashes from the new water. He said his doctor says the rash is from the new drinking water, and I told him to have his doctor document this and he can bring to the attention of the MI DEQ, since lab analyses to date show that the drinking water is meeting all health-based standards. He has no interest in speaking with Mike Prysby; he doesn’t trust anyone in MI government. He asked me for free drinking water lab analyses, which I was unable to provide. He only wants to speak with someone from EPA headquarters.”

(TRUTH SQUAD NOTE: Eisenberg was a high-ranking official at EPA in Washington, D.C.)

June 2014: Complaints are now coming in regarding Flint drinking water quality.  Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and state-appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley continuee to tell residents the water is safe. “It’s a quality, safe product,” Walling tells “I think people are wasting their precious money buying bottled water.”

July 2014: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality begins first six-month testing and monitoring of Flint water under the department’s interpretation of the federal Lead and Copper rule.

(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: A wide range of documents, including a January 2016 order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will eventually determine the City of Flint and MDEQ did not anticipate or provide for corrosion control. As a result, the highly corrosive Flint River water in city water lines would cause hazardous lead to leach into city drinking water supplies and into the homes of Flint residents.)

August 15, 2014: Flint issues boil water advisory after fecal coliform bacteria is discovered in the water. The city adds chlorine to treatment.

September 5, 2014: Second boil-water advisory issued by Flint because of coliform bacteria.

October 13, 2014: “General Motors said it will no longer use the river water at its engine plant because of fears it will cause corrosion” due to high chloride levels. GM instead buys Lake Huron water from Flint Township. (As reported by

October 13, 2014: Email from Mike Prysby to Busch, Shekter Smith and others at MDEQ… Inquiry from Ron Fonger at Flint Journal concerning GM getting off Flint water. Prysby notes that Flint water is elevated for chlorides but downplays the issue… “although not optimal” he said, it’s “satisfactory…” “I stressed the importance of not branding Flint’s water as ‘corrosive’ from a public health standpoint simply because it does not meet a manufacturing facility’s limit for production.”

October 14, 2014: In the final weeks of Governor Rick Snyder’s re-election campaign, two key Snyder aides raise alarm bells about Flint water. Snyder deputy legal counsel Valerie Brader stressed the need for urgent action on Flint’s water supply in 2014. Brader emails Snyder Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore, Communications Director Jarrod Agen, Legal Counsel Michael Gadola, and Deputy Chief of Staff Beth Clement. She urges them to ask the Flint emergency manager to consider moving Flint off the Flint River and back to the Detroit drinking water system “as an interim solution to both the quality, and now the financial, problems that the current solution is causing.” At the time, Flint residents had been complaining about the water for months. A day earlier, General Motors announced it would stop using Flint River water because it interfered with the manufacturing process. Flint had issued boil water advisories. And there were growing concerns about the amount of chemicals Flint needed to use to treat the river water.

“I see this as an urgent matter to fix,” Brader wrote.

The governor’s chief legal counsel, Michael Gadola, responds 12 minutes later to everyone on Valerie Brader’s original email string.

“… (T)o anyone who grew up in Flint as I did, the notion that I would be getting my drinking water from the Flint River is downright scary. Too bad the (emergency manager) didn’t ask me what I thought, though I’m sure he heard it from plenty of others. My Mom is a City resident. Nice to know she’s drinking water with elevated chlorine levels and fecal coliform. I agree with Valerie. They should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control.”

“Can you guys step into this?” Muchmore, Snyder’s chief of staff, asks state Treasury Department officials the same day.

October 2014: Snyder requests and receives a briefing paper from MDEQ. The paper blames September 2014 boil water advisories due toecoli bacteria in Flint drinking water on a variety of factors, most notably decrepit, 75-year-old cast iron water pipes subject to corrosion and bacteria. No mention of lead issues in Flint water at this time.

October 21, 2014: Susan Bohm of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services alerted officials in Genesee County in an e-mail that there were concerns that Flint’s water would be linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a pneumonia that can be caused by inhaling water vapors, according to emails obtained by the Detroit Free Press. In 2014, Liane Shekter Smith, the head of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance for the state Department of Environmental Quality, had contacted state health officials “a couple of times” to discuss the outbreak, the emails show. “She was concerned that an announcement was going to be made soon about the water as the source of the infection; I told her the Flint water was at this point just a hypothesis,” Bohm wrote in an email.

October 21, 2014: Susan Bohm of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services alerts officials in Genesee County in an e-mail that there are concerns that Flint’s water would be linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a pneumonia that can be caused by inhaling water vapors, according to emails obtained by the Detroit Free Press . In 2014, Liane Shekter Smith, the head of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance for the state Department of Environmental Quality, had contacted state health officials “a couple of times” to discuss the outbreak, the emails show. “She was concerned that an announcement was going to be made soon about the water as the source of the infection; I told her the Flint water was at this point just a hypothesis,” Bohm writes.

November 2014: Dick Posthumus, senior advisor to the governor, asks Snyder in an email if he wants to support a bill to allow Flint to boost its income tax from 1 percent to 1.5 percent (a rate some other cities have). There is no clear response from Snyder in publicly released emails, but other emails show the idea has momentum in the administration. December 2014 email from Snyder’s Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs Sally Durfee to Executive Director to the Governor Allison Scott and Posthumus says such a bill would raise $6.5 million per year, has the support of the Flint emergency manager and the state Treasury Department. But, according to the email, State Rep. Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) said, “he would take up this bill over his dead body.”

To move ahead to Part 2 (January 2015 – June 2015), click here
To move ahead to Part 3 (July 2015 – present), click here

38 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Phil

    Wow. What an excellent addition to the Flint story. There’s so much to dissect. You’d think the data folks at MDHHS were purposely trying to skew the results in a way that Nate Silver might describe as obscuring the signal by the addition of noise. Another way of trying to say everything is awesome, nothing to see here, move along folks.
    Great work, Bridge!

  2. Richard McLellan

    This looks like the results of some hard work. Very useful. Now start of the script for your made for TV movie on Flint.

  3. Hector Solon

    FOUL: Critical elements of the origin of the “Flint Water Crisis” are found in the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA/#KWAdeal) project, and are NOT included in this TIMELINE.

    The KWA deal was put upon the Flint City Council and the People of Flint due to the continuing “Water Wars” between DWSD (now Great Lakes Water Authority) and other counties such as Washtenaw, Monroe and Genesee counties. It was also caused by competing interests of Snyder appointed “Emergency Managers” both in Flint (EMs Brown, Kurtz, Earley and Ambrose), reporting to Gov SNyder and his Treasurers (Dillon, Clinton, houri), and Detroit (Kevyn Orr and DWSD run by Sue McCormick of Ann Arbor).

    Plans for the now infamous “river switch” were commissioned, analyzed and developed in the MI Dept of Treasury (Andy DILLON), who signed the legally binding “approvals” and “authorizations” for the “river switch plan”, and were NOT revealed to Flint Officials as confirmed by Mayor Walling on several occasions.

    FYI – Corporate interests in the KWA deal include: DTE Energy is to get 3 Million gallons per day from the KWA capacity of 30 MGD; CMS Energy (Consumers Power) is putting in a Natural Gas pipeline and ITC Holdings is putting in power lines. All other them (DTE, CMS & ITC) are Center for Michigan and Bridge Magazine corporate sponsors. See this link for details:

    More later… but that’s a start.

  4. John S.

    This is an excellent chronology and the conclusions seem sound. James Svara has written an important textbook on administrative ethics. After reading this detailed chronology, it appears that there were EMs, people in the EPA, the MDEQ, and the MDHHS who displayed remarkable levels of ethical incompetence. The good news is that there are still many people who despite personal costs will pursue the public interest and do the right thing.

  5. Charlene Schlueter

    It certainly took a long time to read but was definitely worth every minute. Excellent job, Bridge Magazine…thank you! I hope you have plans to update this timeline as more events occur. This timeline is a great tool and would be an invaluable historical reference.

  6. David Waymire

    A root cause of Flint’s problems has been the state’s massive reduction of revenue sharing (due to tax cuts). Now we find out that while the governor and his staff were willing to allow the people of the city to impose an income tax hike on themselves, lawmakers in charge refused to even allow discussion of such a reasonable action in the Legislature.

    November 2014: Dick Posthumus, senior advisor to the governor, asks Snyder in an email if he wants to support a bill to allow Flint to boost its income tax from 1 percent to 1.5 percent (a rate some other cities have). There is no clear response from Snyder in publicly released emails, but other emails show the idea has momentum in the administration. …. But, according to the email, State Rep. Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) said, “he would take up this bill over his dead body.”

  7. Kathy

    This is excellent work and provides a lot more answers than the congressional inquiry yesterday, which seemed to be primarily an opportunity for partisan grandstanding. As a former state public health regulatory official (though not in DEQ or MDHHS) I am horrified, yet not surprised, that the CYA and minimalist culture took over. I am very disappointed that there was no one among state career employees who appeared to look at the big picture and interject logic. These are the experts who should have challenged each other and looked at all of the data. Whatever the politicians or unions are saying, these are the folks who should have raised the red flags, and have shared culpability. A a minimum this case could provide a great ethics learning opportunity for all government employees.

    1. Charlene S

      I never worked for the Michigan State government, but worked WITH the Michigan State government for three decades. My observation is that the very competent civil service employees always left. And I can’t say I blame them. I’d find it impossible to stay happy in a job with such an impossible bureaucracy.

  8. J. Edward Tuttle

    Communications Director Brad Wurfel needs to learn about communicating. On 24 July ’15 he wrote, “By the tenants of the federal statute, …”

    Brad might use a dictionary, or he could google “tenants vs tenets” to get educated.

    I could dismiss this if he were an engineer, but Brad is a Communications Director.

  9. D Thomas

    Where is Michael Moore on this? He could make a great top-selling movie.
    As I tell my Science classes, It just goes to show “Science doesn’t lie, people do.” Especially in politics.
    In this case to the detriment of Flint residents, especially the children.
    Gov. Snyder, you could learn a lesson from Erin Brockovich on this. Do the science first!

    1. Robert R

      In the hospital, with pneumonia! But suspect he will be all over this when he recovers.

  10. Bill

    This is one of the more thorough chronologies of the Flint water situation, but Bridge would have done well to start back in 1992 or so when the federal lead and copper rule was first implemented. What did Flint leaders do or not do back in the day when city finances were supported by ?30,000 GM jobs and GM property tax revenue? I think the story starts long before the emergency manager business.

    One area which I’ve not seen any objective inquiry into is the basis for DEQ ‘s drinking water program’s much criticized focus on “technical compliance”. Perhaps Bridge could start with a look at the easily researched history of conservative legislator’s funding of the agency prior to Dan Wyant’s tenure. Then examine impacts of “regulatory reform” and “smaller government” initiatives on DEQ mission capability. Next look at 1) legislative or regulatory authority for civil service professionals to require more than “technical compliance” and 2) what happens when regulatory professionals try to push the compliance envelope even when it is the right thing to do. This latter element of “how things really work” will be a little more difficult to investigate and because lack of trust cuts both ways and agency staff a) by and large don’t have a portfolio of good experiences with media, b) don’t care to endanger chances for good performance reviews and promotions by discussing specific legislator and lobbyist interference in environmental protection compliance proceedings, and c) know that creating a ruckus, however high-minded, will likely result in attacks on DEQ appropriations the following fiscal year.

    It was a shame to lose Mr. Wyant. He had made great strides in re-establishing a portion of historical general fund support for DEQ and was working on long term stable funding for important environmental protection programs. Perhaps topic for another Bridge story.

    1. Sam


      I agree with some of what you stated but I don’t feel that Wyant had the credentials to be the director of the MDEQ. His eductional background was an undergrad in food service and a MBA in finance, a far cry from environmental sciences. As such, his ignorance forced him to accept technical information form his employees that he couldn’t counter by asking the right technical questions. I’m sure he’s an a great guy just a great guy in the wrong job. This is what happens when governors’ hire cronies instead of people with the right backgrounds.

  11. Tony

    Outstanding! Mr. Power, Mr. Bebow et al – Thank you!

  12. Cindy Goodaker

    This is an enormous public service. Thanks for putting the time and effort into it.

  13. Sam

    Outstanding work and thank you. After reading it’s apparent why Dan Wyant resigned – he was the person in charge of one of the agencies that failed. That said, shouldn’t the governor also resign since he’s ultimately in charge. Keep in mind Wyant was appointed by Snyder to lead the MDEQ but didn’t have the requisite credentials to run an agency demanding an environment background. His undergrad was food service and a MBA in finance. Perhaps this is why he couldn’t and didn’t ask the right questions of those below him. Snyder should be further scrutinized for hiring a crony instead of someone who had the scientific wherewithal to protect the public from environmental hazards. Based on the information provided in the timeline the director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, Lyon’s, should also resign.

  14. Robert R

    Excellent work! One thing that still is elusive to me is the corrosivity of the Flint River water. What is it about it that makes it so corrosive? Is the water, as drawn from the river, more corrosive than water from Lake Huron? If so, why, what is in it that makes it so? Or is it the fact that the treatment for the coliform bacteria is what made it more corrosive (yes, increased chlorine treatment has that effect, as pointed out in this time line)? A combination of both? And, should Flint, the EPA and MDEQ have known or reasonably expected that the Flint River water would be so corrosive? Seems to me, from following this, that the “water war” between DWSD and the surrounding communities started this. And frankly, I don’t blame Flint for trying to find a more affordable water source. Where this all went awry is when they decided to switch to the Flint River for their water. Made sense at the time, it was their back up source for decades. But the water was not appropriately tested. The water was not appropriately treated, and people responsible for this did not have the expertise to manage this water source. Plus, the MDEQ insistence and stubbornness that they were following appropriate protocols. Even if they were (and it turns out they were not), to ignore what was going on, hiding behind technical compliance, was irresponsible. Even if you think you are going things right, when the data suggests something is wrong you figure it out. And ignoring people who were sounding the alarm was reprehensible. I know a lot of people want to eviscerate the Governor on this. To the extent that he is the top executive in the state, and is responsible for what goes on, yes, he deserves blame. But honestly, he is hearing from his people that everything is OK, that they are running the right tests, the problem is overblown. What is he supposed to do? From budgets to trying to get road money and on, he has more on his plate than just Flint. So when his people are telling him what they did, was pretty easy to move on to other more apparently pressing issues. To his credit, he is trying to fix this the best he can. May not be enough for some, those looking to pin the blame on someone easy and visible. Not enough for some, looking to stick it to the Governor for past disagreements. What I would like to see is people working on fixing this, not worrying about making political hay out of this. What I would also like to see is getting away from the political rhetoric, the “poisoning” of a city terminology. There is nothing in this that suggests that people knew this would happen before hand, that there was an intentional effort to poison water to hurt people. Stupidity and incompetence? Oh yes! Stubbornness? Oh yes! Intentional poisoning? No.

    1. Joe

      Robert R. – The Flint River water in and of itself is fine. Marc Edwards (Va Tech prof) has even said that the water from the river was fine to use as a source. It was the treatment (and lack of) that made it so dangerous. The chemicals they added to stop the choliform bacteria made it very corrosive. Coupled with the fact that corrosion controls were not used – well, even GM had to stop using it because it was so corrosive (but it’s important to point out that despite its corrosivity at this point, it was still considered safe by EPAs standards). Also, you mentioned that the river was used as a back-up source for decades. As such, the water treatment plant was required by the DEQ to run the plant quarterly and test the water each time. This is done to verify that the plant could operate seamlessly in case of some emergency. However, DWSD had it in the contract that when the plant came on line once per quarter, the water could not be entered into the system (because DWSD would lose money) – so it could only be tested at the outlet pipe where it went back into the river after verifying the plant was operational. They could not test the water at the taps of each home due to this contractual clause.

      1. Craig

        Thank you for this. I have been wondering for awhile how they used the river as a backup and this was never a issue before. My thinking was that they never treated it during the times it ran and could have been a issue even then, or they did treat it, but didn’t for the switch.

  15. Dennis Muchmore

    I can only speak for myself and will not attempt to dispute any of the information in the article except conclusions that I personally was not concerned or urgent in my efforts on behalf of Flint. Since you did not ask me but rather made assumptions as to my “urgency”, I’ll assume you have some knowledge I do not. There are 47,000 state employees and they are for the most part competant people who make judgements based on the information they are presented. Harvey Hollins and I met several times with a terrific group of Concerned Pastors of Flint (some 25-30) and an executive group of 3-5, specifically Pastors Harris, Hill and Overton and the citizens they brought with them, the real heroes with Dr. Edwards if that title can be used. I consistently listened and worked with them in their concerns, all of which were proven to be correct, and we were frustrated by our lack of success,, but not nearly as frustrated as they were or the members of their congregations. We were left to try to work with the local, state, and federal experts in the field all with varying information. The people of Flint have had to go through hell with their water system and we all know it and have tried to move to deal with each aspect as it presented itself. My job was to receive, analysize and respond to information as best I could, seek ways to deal with each situation and then try to move everyone towards solutions. To clarify, I never doubted Dan Kildee’s concern and certainly not Jim Ananichs as he and his wife have a five month old directly impacted. Your conclusions as to my interest couldn’t be further from the real truth. I feel as badly for the people in Flint as anyone not from Flint and experiencing it can feel unless their family is impacted.

  16. janet mendler

    How many times have I said to myself, “Geez, Bridge can’t possibly do any better than this,” and then you do. Kudos to everyone who helped with this piece. Thorough reporting coupled with clear, concise crafting. Have shared this with numerous colleagues–and suggested that they, too, become Bridge subscribers–and supporters.

  17. Brian

    I may have missed it in the timeline but my question: When did Governor Snyder sign onto the ominous sounding Century 21 Infrastructure initiative? What is entailed ~ would love to find out… TY

  18. Donna L.

    Thank you for this excellent body of work. What is behind the KWA? It doesn’t seem like it would have be possible without Flint paying for it and the EM made that a slam dunk, but it seems to have been in the works for quite a long time and I am having trouble believing that was to make life better for the citizens of Flint.

  19. Jake

    Good work!

    Your timeline provides a good list of the people who should be locked up forever for poisoning children.

  20. Gary

    The only thing missing was Dayne Walling’s defeat in his bid for re-election as Flint mayor. Dr. Karen Weaver became the new mayor.

  21. Margot Haynes

    I agree that election of Mayor Weaver, who declared the State of Emergency in Flint, has been omitted. I also feel you underplay in your FACTCHECK commentary the fact that, earlier on, Emergency Managers under the Governor were making all the decisions. When did the city of Flint return to self-governance, giving the mayor and city council true power? Isn’t that significant to include?

    Also omitted (but kind of relevant, like the GM switch to a different water source, which evidently was given funding by the State, so they were aware of it) are actions by University of Michigan-Flint and Kettering University (I have a letter they sent to parents) which minimized the public emergency. Nobody wanted to admit to this happening on their watch, in their “neighborhood.”

    Finally, I would like to share the cold, factual letter I received from one of Gov. Snyder’s assistants on Dec. 22. This was kind of a dumping of data on a concerned citizen who had made a call. The implication of the letter, including data from 2013 on, was that things were not as bad as they used to be or as they were made out to be in the press (this while Rachel Maddow was doing almost nightly commentary on the lead-water). The letter indicates that even the Governor’s office, three months after the crisis was publicly acknowledged, was trying to manipulate public perceptions by downplaying the seriousness of the situation:

    Stoken, Laura (GOV)

    to me
    Dear Margot Haynes,
    Thank you for your recent correspondence sent to Governor Rick Snyder regarding the water in Flint. As a member of Governor Snyder’s staff, I am responding on his behalf.

    Recently the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released preliminary data indicating that 39 of 1,836adults and children tested in Flint since October 1 had elevated blood lead levels. This marks the first summary report on lead testing called for in the state’s action plan related to health concerns about Flint’s water infrastructure.
    Information comes from tests administered citywide to 1,836 children and adults since October 1. Tests showed that 39 of the 1,836 adults and children tested were identified with elevated blood lead levels.
    The report covers test results reported to MDHHS since the state action plan was put in place Oct. 2. It includes the number of tests and number of elevated blood lead levels greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter, and captures both capillary and venous blood tests that have been reported to MDHHS since the beginning of October. People who have had multiple tests are counted only once. Five micrograms per deciliter is the level that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers elevated and triggers health care professional follow up with families.

    The full report is posted online at andwill be updated as more data becomes available.

    In the third quarter of 2010, 8.3 percent of Flint children 6 and under showed elevated blood lead levels. The figure gradually decreased to 4.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013. During the same months in 2014, the figure increased to 7.5 percent and decreased to 6.4percent in the third quarter of 2015.

    On October 21, Governor Snyder announced the creation of an independent advisory task force charged with reviewing actions regarding water use and testing in Flint and offer recommendations for future guidelines to protect the health and safety of all state residents.

    MDHHS continues to provide free water filters and replacement cartridges to Flint residents at four locations, including the MDHHS Flint offices and the Genesee County Community Action Resource Department. For a full list of locations and hours of distribution, visit
    Thank you, again, for taking the time to share your concerns with our office. Should you have any further comments, questions or concerns regarding this or any other state-related matter, I’ve included my contact information below.


    Laura Stoken
    Constituent Relations Division
    Executive Office of the Governor, Rick Snyder
    517.335.7858 (o)

  22. Margot Haynes

    I apologize to Bridge for my comment above that seems only to find fault with your timeline. In fact, you have performed an extraordinary service here, providing names of those involved AND pointing out where communications deliberately omitted details!!!

    One of the details left out of the letter from Gov. Snyder’s assistant, and why that letter so offended me, is the detail about blood lead testing. As I understand it, blood lead is detectable only for a short time after the poisoning, 15-30 days. After that, the lead is absorbed into other cell structures of the body and no longer appears reliably in a blood test. In children, the permanent absorption of lead into those cells leads to cognitive and behavioral problems that affect the rest of their lives. So such a dispassionate listing of blood lead levels (after many Flint residents had begun to drink bottled water, well before this Dec. letter) omits all of this information.

  23. Frank Rossman

    Great article!

    It really lays out the background of Team Snyder’s 5 point CCEDE Gentrification plan to dissolve Flint.
    1. Corrode the infrastructure
    2. Contaminate the citizens
    3. Erode property values
    4. Disperse the populace
    5. Erect New Flint (i.e. Snyderham, Snyderfield Hills, Snyd Arbor, Snyder Pointe, Snyder Corners, Snydchester Hills, Snydington Woods, West Snyderfield, Snydvi, Northsnyderville, Forest Snydhills, Beverly Snydhills.)

  24. Jennifer

    Good analysis. However, I was confused when I read about Flint water being cheaper if they made a switch to Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA). This happened in February 2013. I read that the audit/study said it would be cheaper to stay with Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) in long term according to the following websites:



  25. Paul

    This is a very detailed timeline of what he said, she said, meetings. etc that is helpful but nowhere do I see the use of any professional expertise used to actually solve a sanitary engineering problem encountered often. Culling through the voluminous material. There seems to be 3 problems.

    (1) The original problem to reduce the cost of potable drinking water by going to an alternative to Detroit water. The ultimate solution is to purchase of treated Lake Huron water from KWA.

    (2) A temporary source, the Flint River, has been used with some resulting contamination issues. Cast Iron city pipes which have forever been leaded to connect sections, is bleeding a small amount of lead (6 parts per Billion well within EPA Guidelines of 15 parts per Billion) into the water because of a low pH. I assume this water acidity is due to the high chlorination required to treat the river water and is or has not been adjusted to the 7.5-8.5 pH by adding lime to control the pH which has been practiced for eons. The acidity will also dissolve the iron from the cast iron pipes which produces a reddish color. That also can be treated with lime and precipitated out. Why isn’t that happening?

    (3) If the pipes are corroded beyond use from age, it has nothing to do with the source of water, which is a red herring. The pipes may need to be replaced no matter where the water comes from. Bringing the pH up to a controlled slight alkalinity will minimize the iron problem or perhaps eliminate it as a “short term” concern.

    Everyone wants to make this a political problem when it is a technical problem with real known solutions. By making it such a hot potato politically, I doubt if anyone wants to get involved to solve it, less they be painted as part of the scandal. Thus nothing gets done. Politics as usual and no one wins. The public suffers. That is a disservice to the public. They deserve better.

    My 25 years experience with municipal water utilities be they regional authorities, water departments,or private utility companies, is that when a major change is required, the first step is to hire a professional consulting engineering company that has the experience and skills to administer the entire project. This protects the public health and financial wellbeing of the municipality. I have found this to be true for water plants of capacities from less than 1 million gallons a day up to cities and authorities larger than the Flint MI Water Department.

    Only the largest municipalities (i.e. NYC, L.A., Boston, Philadelpia, etc.) can afford to maintain a complete staff on hand to cover all parts of a major project. And even they at times, find it necessary to hire an outside Consulting firm for certain projects. Such a qualified Professional Engineering Organization could have prevented this situation. Just look how many sewage treatment plants discharge into the Mississippi to be withdrawn downstream for drinking water.

    I see that on “August 2013: Rowe Professional Services completes an “engineering proposal” for improvements that would allow Flint to draw water continuously from the Flint River in lieu of DWSD service. (From October 2014 MDEQ briefing to the Snyder Administration.)” But I do not see that any contract for professional services were contracted. The design, testing, evaluation of options/bids, project management and final acceptance are usually contracted under such an arrangement. State and federal agencies provide oversight and approval for the release of state and federal funds for disbursements and compliance with standards, but NOT to design nor manage municipal projects. That is the responsibility of the water utility or jointly with their hired certified professional engineers.

    It seems to me that this step and the protection it offered the community was omitted by the city and water department of Flint MI to the detriment of the citizens of Flint, their paying customers. There are many P.E. Firms that could have served the City in this capacity. This is not an issue of Democrats vs Republicans, it is an issue of Local responsibility by a city and department that took hard earned money in taxes and furnishes a dangerous and inferior product, water, in return. The customers have every right to be angry but remember it is the City and its utility that is responsible to provide safe drinking water to meet federal and state requirements, not the other way around. The city is selling you water. That is why the water department exist!

    I can’t believe in all that has been written and said, that no one has asked the question; does or can any state or the federal government ,who establish the water quality regulations and criteria, have the ability to run, design, modify, maintain and operate every water plant in its jurisdiction. Common sense tells you NO. That is why we have locally operated water plants all over the country and if they don’t have all the skills necessary at any time, they can and should go out and bring in Professional Engineering help with expertise in that area.

    All the professional Politicians anxiously weighing in on this should be ashamed of themselves for trying to make a political issue out of such a dangerous situation without knowing what the actual system is that has been in place for years for public safety. Was the city administration errant bypassing this step? It seems that question has been camouflaged in true political style to hide it. Avoiding the real cause and solution makes others vulnerable in the future while they attempt to make themselves look good at the expense of all victims.

  26. Pat Shalhoob

    I think there might be another factor that I haven’t seen in my reading of the timeline so far. At least ONE set of lead/copper samples was taken from ‘volunteer’ citizens of Flint. I remember that when the lead/copper rule went into effect, first draw samples were to be taken from HOMES WHERE CITY RECORDS SHOWED THAT THERE WERE LEAD SERVICE LINES. And the water supplier had to find these records. So there would be a focused (on known problem areas) study that didn’t include pvc or other newer (safer) lines, ‘diluting’ the results. This could, and would’ve been, a SERIOUS PROBLEM in evaluating the problems with the service lines.

  27. Mo


    Just read the Det News update on new emails obtained from gov’s office, particularly regarding his aides’ remarks circa the time GM gave up on Flint River water in Oct 14. Please, please insert those emails into your valuable timeline. You’re doing all of us a great service with this document.

    1. Aly

      Yes, please add the new emails to this excellent piece!

  28. AL

    Since when is lead a “chronic contaminant”?

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