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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2016/03/flint-crisis-timeline-part-3/
1 March 2016
This portion of the timeline encompasses July 2015 – present
To go back to Part 1 (2004 – 2014), click here
To go back to Part 2 (January 2015 – June 2015), click here
July 1, 2015: EPA’s Jennifer Crooks sends an email to 18 people to present draft notes of what appears to be a “semi-annual” regulatory overview call on June 10, 2015 between EPA and MDEQ drinking water staff. Not all of the recipients’ affiliations are noted in Crooks’ emails. But recipients include Shekter Smith, Benzie, Prysby, Cook, and Busch (all from MDEQ) as well as Poy and Del Toral from EPA. Several other MDEQ staffers not previously included in the now-public email correspondence regarding Flint are also copied. Those additional MDEQ staffers include: Carrie Monosmith (supervisor of the MDEQ Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Environmental Health Section); and, Dana DeBruyn, Dan Dettweiler, and Kevin Holdwick (of MDEQ’s Noncommunity and Private Drinking Water Supplies Unit). The draft notes of the June 10 conference call detail a wide range of covered topics, with considerable emphasis on the Flint situation. Key points of the meeting notes, which were authored by an EPA staffer (Crooks), include:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: In January 2016, EPA issued its well-publicized “Emergency Order” regarding Flint Water. The order accused Michigan of “a lack of transparency” and stated “During May and June, 2015, EPA Region 5 staff at all levels expressed concern to MDEQ and the City about increasing concentrations of lead in Flint drinking water and conveyed its concern about lack of corrosion control and recommended that the expertise of EPA’s Office of Research and Development should be used to avoid further water quality problems moving forward.” Not exactly.In fact, this portion of the January 2016 EPA order itself lacks transparency. The above draft notes of the June 10 EPA/MDEQ meeting once again make Del Toral’s concerns clear. But there is no sense in this record that anyone else at either the state or federal agencies share that concern and urgency. EPA issues no orders to MDEQ. MDEQ stands firm in its defense of its interpretation of the Lead and Copper Rule. And the meeting notes, written by an EPA supervisor, imply agreement with the MDEQ contention that “the source of drinking water will be changing again in 2016, so to start a Corrosion Control Study now doesn’t make sense.” Again, there’s a suggestion of regulators at both the state and federal levels playing a waiting game to endure the Flint River situation until the Karegnondi Water Authority comes online in 2016. And yet more state and federal drinking water regulators are on record of being aware of Del Toral’s concerns without clear action to address those concerns.)
July 1, 2015: EPA Region 5 Director Susan Hedman significantly downplays – and even apologizes for – Del Toral’s June 24 memo in an email to Flint Mayor Dayne Walling. Walling wrote to Hedman on June 30th, requesting a copy of Del Toral’s June 24th memo. Walling heard about the memofrom Curt Guyette, a reporter at the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. Guyette would soon publicly break the story of Del Toral’s memo and his grave concerns about the safety of the Flint drinking water. Hedman writes to Walling:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Add the EPA’s very top official in the Midwest region to the long and growing list of state and federal regulators who know about, but are not urgently acting on, Del Toral’s concerns. Also add Flint’s mayor at the time to those at least partially in the know, but Walling tries and can’t get the actual Del Toral memo. Instead, EPA Region 5 Director Susan Hedman apologizes “for the manner in which this matter was handled.”)
July 7, 2015: MDEQ Public Information Officer Karen Tommasulo emails MDEQ Communications Director Brad Wurfel: “I got a weird call from a ‘reporter’ with the ACLU asking about Flint drinking water. His name is Curt Guyette, and I’m 98 percent sure it’s the same guy who used to work at the Metro Times. He said he heard from someone at EPA that we use a ‘flawed methodology’ to collect our water samples… Additionally, he claimed Flint is not adding corrosion control to their water, and said a city of their size should be doing so by law. But apparently we told Flint they didn’t have to. I didn’t offer any comment, just took the message from him. Do you want to talk to him, or does this one need to go to Liane’s shop?” Two days later, Tommasulo emails Wurfel again as Michigan Public Radio begins picking up on the ACLU reports… “Apparently, it is going to be a thing now.”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: These, we believe, are the first communications in publicly released emails to date in which state employees whose job it is to speak directly to the public on behalf of the Snyder Administration are documented discussing a potential lead problem in Flint drinking water.)
July 9, 2015: ACLU-Michigan reporter Curt Guyette breaks the story of serious concerns about lead in Flint’s drinking water by detailing the June 24 EPA-Del Toral memo and telling the story of high lead levels in LeeAnne Walters’ water, and exposing the lack of ongoing corrosion control in Flint drinking water treatment.
July 9, 2015: Brad Wurfel emails Steve Busch at DEQ as ACLU-Michigan is breaking the story of the June 24 Del Toral memo and Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith is sending related press inquiries to Wurfel. At this point MDEQ officials have clearly heard Del Toral’s concerns numerous times, but they still do not have Del Toral’s June 24 memo.
July 10, 2015: EPA Region 5 Director Hedman shares EPA’s public comment on the ACLU report with Flint Mayor Walling via email: “EPA continues to work closely with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Flint to ensure that Flint residents are provided with safe drinking water…. EPA will work with Michigan DEQ and the City of Flint to verify and assess the extent of lead contamination issues and to ensure that Flint’s drinking water meets federal standards.”
July 13, 2015: “Let me start here – anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax.” – Brad Wurfel, MDEQ spokesman, to Michigan Radio in a story headlined, “Leaked internal memo shows federal regulator’s concerns about lead in Flint’s water.
July 14, 2015: In spite of growing public concern, growing media investigations, and the alarm of EPA’s Del Toral, MDEQ actually allows the City of Flint to decrease the number of homes sampled for lead in the second six-month testing period. This comes to light in an email from Jennifer Crooks (EPA) to Busch, Prysby, and Cook at DEQ on July 14… “I understand that Flint didn’t get the minimum number of lead samples (100) for the second six-month monitoring period that ended June 30, so I assume Flint is collecting the remaining samples now.” Busch responds a day later, “We will provide the 90th percentile when available, but at this point we do not anticipate any violations of the Lead and Copper Rule.” MDEQ later explains in written briefings that the number of samples was decreased to 60 in the second six-month sampling period because Flint’s population had dropped below 100,000. Therefore, a full 100 samples were no longer required by law.
July 21, 2015: EPA and DEQ hold conference call on DEQ’s implementation of the lead and copper rule (as documented in the Michigan Auditor General’s timeline published in December 2015) There appears to be ongoing disagreement between the agencies. EPA wants optimized corrosion control in Flint. MDEQ believes this is premature. (Truth Squad Note: But the federal agency doesn’t take steps to override the state agency until months later. In November, EPA clarifies nationwide policy and says optimized corrosion control should begin at the instant that any such major water source switch begins.)
Email from MDEQ’s Liane Shekter Smith to EPA’s Tinka Hyde same day in reference to the dual-agency conference call:
TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Perhaps this is a question for investigators to now pursue… Why is Shekter Smith, a top Michigan drinking water regulator, making this distinction between “our goals to address important public health issues” and “compliance requirements”? Truth Squad is reminded at this point of a key conclusion of the fact-finding body formed in October 2015 by Governor Rick Snyder – the Flint Water Advisory Task Force. In a December 29 letter to Snyder this task force said: “We believe that in the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance at MDEQ, a culture exists in which ‘technical compliance’ is considered sufficient to ensure safe drinking water in Michigan. This minimalist approach to regulatory oversight responsibility is unacceptable and simply insufficient to the task of public protection. It led to MDEQ’s failure to recognize a number of indications that switching the water source in Flint would – and did – compromise both water safety and water quality. The MDEQ made a number of decisions that were, and continue to be, justified on the basis that federal rules ‘allowed’ those decisions to be made. ODWMA must adopt a posture that is driven not by this minimalist technical compliance approach, but rather by one that is founded on what needs to be done to assure drinking water safety.”)
July 22, 2015: Snyder Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore expresses frustration with state agencies for not addressing the legitimate concerns of Flint residents, and sends email urging Nick Lyon (MDHSS) and Dan Wyant (MDEQ) to go deeper on Flint:
“I’m frustrated by the water issue in Flint. I really don’t think people are getting the benefit of the doubt. Now they are concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving from DEQ samples. Can you take a moment out of your impossible schedule to personally take a look at this? These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us (as a state we’re just not sympathizing with their plight).”
The Muchmore email is forwarded by Nancy Grijalva, assistant to the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to Paula Anderson (an executive secretary in MDHHS’ public health administration division) and Susan Moran (MDHHS deputy director for population health and community services). Anderson then forwards Muchmore’s email to another MDHHS employee, Mark Miller, who responds:
July 23, 2015: A more detailed response to the Muchmore inquiry is provided by Linda Dykema, director of the MDHHS Division of Environmental Health. She sends an email to the following colleagues: Corrine Miller (State Epidemiologist and director of the MDHHS Bureau of Epidemiology); Nancy Peeler (program director of the MDHHS program for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting); Rashmi Travis (MDHHS director for Family, Maternal and Child Health); Nancy Grijalva; Susan Moran; Wesley Priem (manager of the MDHHS Healthy Homes Section); , James Bouters (a secretary for MDHHS Zoonotics and Special Projects team) Jacqui Barr (secretary for the MDHHS Division of Environmental Health); Brenda Fink (director of the MDHHS Family and Community Health Division); and, Kory Groetsch (manager for the Toxicology and Response Section of the MDHHS Division of Environmental Health).
In essence, Dykema reports no urgency after talking to Steve Busch at MDEQ. She summarizes the discussion with Busch in her email to colleagues and notes “this is what I sent up to my front office” as follows:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: EPA’s Miguel Del Toral, the one regulator who has consistently sounded the alarm about the potential for lead in Flint drinking water, surfaces again. And is ignored – and in this case, discredited – again. The ignorance of Del Toral’s warnings now spreads to a second state agency charged with the protection of public health.)
July 24, 2015: More evidence that the governor’s office is getting more community pressure from Flint. And more deflection and denial from the front-line MDEQ staff charged with watchdogging public drinking water.
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: In hindsight, a very troubling set of assertions. First, it ignores Del Toral’s concerns about MDEQ’s sampling requirements. Second, it ignores the fact that the number of samples collected in Flint actually decreased significantly in the second six-month sampling period (from 100 to 60). Third, the MDEQ/Flint sampling process is later determined by the State Auditor General to be flawed – the regulators aren’t looking at “worst-case” plumbing, instead, as is later shown, they’re not even sure they’re sampling from lead service lines.)
TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: In hindsight, this is another very troubling set of assertions. The clear implication here is that MDEQ and EPA are in agreement on next steps. To be sure, EPA officials have not acted with urgency or alarm to their colleague Del Toral’s concerns. But recent email correspondence had documented considerable disagreement between EPA and MDEQ about the complete lack of corrosion control in the Flint drinking water system. Months later, both EPA and the Michigan Auditor General will conclude that Flint never should have switched to Flint River water without corrosion control. And nobody on this email correspondence seems reminded of Del Toral’s alarms and perspectives which completely contradict the apparent group-think within MDEQ.)
July 24, 2015: Two days after the governor’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, worries the state is blowing off the Flint concerns, DEQ’s Brad Wurfel urges Muchmore and DEQ Director Wyant not to worry.
Wurfel writes to Muchmore, Wyant and Tom Saxton at the Michigan Department of Treasury:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Wurfel’s assertion here that “the residents of Flint do not need to worry” may go down as one of the biggest blow-offs in the entire Flint water saga. In his defense, Wurfel is a communications director, he’s not a scientist. He’s clearly getting his information directly from the front-line MDEQ drinking water regulations team. Even so, there is no sense of urgency coming from Wurfel or anyone at his agency. It’s also worth noting that the governor’s top aide is now being told explicitly that the water flowing through the faucets of Flint residents has not been “optimized” (i.e., treated to prevent lead from leaching into the water) by the state agency charged with keeping the water supply safe, this on top of the lead concerns raised by the leaked EPA memo. At this point, what is the Snyder Administration to do? At this point, who should the governor and his top advisers trust? Should they trust the many months of public concerns coming directly from Flint? Should they trust the media? Should they trust two state agencies directly charged with protecting public health and drinking water safety –agencies that are providing no sense of alarm that are acknowledging a lack of “optimization” in Flint’s water yet seem more invested in relying upon the lengthy action timelines allowed by federal regulation than expediently addressing rising lead rates? Should the Snyder Administration at this point open some other kind of investigation that would be well outside the norms and boundaries of public health oversight and drinking water regulation? Should Snyder’s office, at this point, have reached the same “common sense” conclusion that a serious lead danger existed in Flint that Snyder would later accuse front-line state regulators of failing to reach? The currently available public record – which likely is not the complete public record – suggests that the governor’s office appeared to choose to continue to weigh options and ask more questions. It would be many weeks before the most important questions would be met with forthright and accurate answers. And only through the work of independent expert researchers well outside the sphere of state government would the full scope of the Flint disaster ultimately be revealed to the people of Flint, and the rest of Michigan and the nation.)
July 28, 2015, 9:25 a.m.: Cristin Larder, a MDHHS epidemiologist, is one of numerous department staffers who begin to analyze state data on childhood lead blood tests in apparent response to Dennis Muchmore’s July 22 inquiry. Larder emails Nancy Peeler (director of the MDHHS program for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting) and Patricia McKane (manager of the MDHHS Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Section). Larder reports some preliminary conclusions from checking the data on Flint children. Specifically, there’s a spike in elevated blood lead levels in Flint in summer 2014, in the months after Flint switches to Flint River drinking water.
July 28, 2015, 1:48 p.m.: Robert L. Scott, data manager for the MDHHS Healthy Homes and Lead Prevention program, also is analyzing state data. Like Larder, Scott sees the summer 2014 spike in Flint blood lead levels. But he doesn’t think it’s serious.
July 28, 2015, 2:57 p.m.: Nancy Peeler, director of the MDHHS program for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting, responds in detail to the July 22 departmental inquiry precipitated by the email of the governor’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore. The recipients of Peeler’s email are unclear. She reports efforts to “review our Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program data to see if it might contribute to the understanding of the situation in Flint with their water supply. Key points in Peeler’s email:
Brenda Fink, director of the MDHHS Family and Community Health Division at DCH, responds by email: “Really nice job… Great data, great language helping folks understand what the data says.”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: In fact, additional third-party research will eventually demonstrate that – at this point and for several more weeks – MDHHS does not understand what its own data actually says. Only after a separate and crucial Flint-specific lead study released in September by Hurley Medical Center in Flint will MDHHS revisit its data and eventually, and painfully, come to the realization that blood lead levels in Flint children are, indeed, rising – and that the rise points toward lead in the drinking water. Ultimately, on December 22, Governor Snyder’s new director of communications, Meegan Holland declares in email talking points prepared to respond to ongoing criticism: “It wasn’t until the Hurley report came out that our epidemiologists took a more in-depth look at the data by zip code, controlling for seasonal variation, and confirmed an increase outside of normal trends. As a result of this process, we have determined that the way we analyze data collected needs to be thoroughly reviewed.”
MDHHS’s failure to see warning signs in childhood lead testing data is the second punch in a one-two combination of state government incompetence regarding the Flint crisis. First comes many months of ignorance, missed warnings, denial, and inaction in the MDEQ regarding the lack of corrosion control in the Flint water pipes, even after alarms are repeatedly raised by EPA. Then comes weeks of ignorance, missed warnings, denial and inaction in MDHHS regarding elevated lead levels in Flint children.)
August 3: Email from Tinka Hyde (EPA) to Liane Shekter Smith (DEQ) regarding notes taken during a July 21 conference call between the agencies regarding the Flint Water System… Key points:
August 10, 2015: EPA pushes DEQ to move faster on corrosion control… Email from Thomas Poy (EPA) to Shekter Smith, Steve Busch and others at MDEQ… “Liane: Any news on Flint since our call a couple weeks ago? Has the letter been sent to inform them that they are not optimized for lead based on their monitoring? Have they been approached about starting corrosion control sooner rather than later?” The next MDEQ action documented in publicly released email records doesn’t happen for another week.
August 17, 2015: MDEQ advises Flint of the second six-month lead/copper monitoring results and finally orders optimized corrosion control. But the timeline outlined by MDEQ gives Flint two years to implement the anti-corrosion measures. And an email from Stephen Busch (MDEQ) to Brad Wurfel (MDEQ) seems to continue to downplay the urgency and instead favor a long grind of hewing to interpretation of government regulations: “As there has been much interest regarding lead related to Flint drinking water, I have attached our latest letter which covers the most recent January–June 2015 monitoring period. The City is in compliance with the 15 part per billion action level for lead. Yet based on these results, the treatment cannot be deemed to provide fully optimized corrosion control treatment, and the City will need to recommend additional treatment to achieve this optimization under the Lead and Copper rule requirements established under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.”
August 23, 2015: Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards notifies MDEQ that he will begin an independent study of Flint water quality. The Virginia Tech study will prove to be a major breakthrough to fully and scientifically document a serious public health threat from lead in Flint’s drinking water. Very soon, the fears of EPA’s Miguel Del Toral will be fully realized.
August 24, 2015: MDEQ’s Liane Shekter Smith sends an email to MDEQ’s Brad Wurfel outlining a draft email to Flint resident LeeAnn Walters, whose high drinking water lead levels earlier in the year sparked Miguel Del Toral’s sounding of alarm bells at the EPA. The Shekter Smith email indicates that Ms. Walters had a meeting in the governor’s office on August 4. Key points Shekter Smith indicates she intends to make to Walters:
(Truth Squad Note: State email records indicate the memo from Shekter Smith to Walters is emailed in late August. Virginia Tech University professor and water expert Marc Edwards later claims that Walters never actually receives the email.)
August 27, 2015: Virginia Tech’s Edwards releases his first preliminary analysis of Flint tap water test results and deems those results “worrisome.” More than half of the first 48 samples are above 5 parts per billion lead and 30 percent of those collected exceeded 15 parts per billion.
August 27, 2015: More deflection from MDEQ after more questions from the governor’s office. Mike Brown, the governor’s senior federal policy representative, emails MDEQ’s Brad Wurfel after apparently getting an inquiry from U.S. Senator Gary Peters’s office. Wurfel appears to share the Shekter Smith report to LeeAnne Walters regarding the leaded water in her Flint home. Wurfel appears to refer to Walters as “a very vocal resident.” Brown inquires: “So this resident’s lead levels are much higher than the 90th percentile mentioned in the previous email. What is the discrepancy?”
Wurfel responds to Brown: “Don’t know what it is, but I know what it’s not. The key to lead and copper in drinking water is that it’s not the source water, or even the transmission lines (most of which are cast iron). It’s in the premise plumbing (people’s homes).”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: This assertion proves to be very wrong a few weeks later, in early October, when Flint Department of Public Works officials tell MLive.com that many city pipes have the possibility of leaching lead, but the city can’t immediately get its finger on the issue because the info is stored on 45,000 paper index cards. And Hurley Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha eventually asserts in a peer-reviewed and published medical journal article that between 10 and 80 percent of city lines leach lead.)
Wurfel also then citesfederal regulations for the slow pace of response as MDEQ orders Flint to finally attain, over the next couple of years, optimized corrosion control. “Such is the wisdom and flexibility of the federal statute.”
Wurfel then appears to mention EPA’s Del Toral, without mentioning him by name, to Brown: “This person is the one who had EPA lead specialist come to her home and do tests, then released an unvetted draft of his report (that EPA apologized to us profusely for) to the resident, who shared it with ACLU, who promptly used it to continue raising hell with the locals.”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: In other words, the inquiring Snyder aide can be left with the horribly misguided impression that Del Toral is wrong, LeeAnne Walters is wrong, ACLU is wrong, it’s all a bunch of hell raising, MDEQ is right, and there’s nothing to worry about.
Wurfel continues: “Bottom line is that folks in Flint are upset – because they pay a ton for water and many of them don’t trust the water they’re getting – and they’re confused, in no small part because various groups have worked hard at keeping them confused and upset. We get it. The state is trying like mad (to) get the word out that we’re working on every aspect of the health safety of local water that we can manage, and the system needs a lot of work… (I)t’s been rough sledding with a steady parade of community groups keeping everyone hopped-up and misinformed.”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: As would become tragically clear by the end of the year, the real and worst confusion was not among local Flint residents. It was within MDEQ and MDHHS. And, over the next several months, the real action to bring urgency and protect the Flint public came not from those state agencies. It came from the kind of ‘outside agitators’ Wurfel scorns.)
August 28, 2015: Email from Thomas Poy (EPA) to Shekter Smith and others at DEQ… “Marc Edwards (Virginia Tech) is working with some of the citizens in Flint and they are finding lead at levels above five parts per billion and some above 15 parts per billion. There’s no indication of whether any of these homes were also sampled and analyzed by Flint and will now be part of their compliance calculations. Virginia Tech sent out 300 bottles and have gotten 48 back. We are not involved in this effort by Dr. Edwards.”
August 31, 2015: Virginia Tech is up to 72 total lead samples tested, with 42 percent above 5 parts per billion and 20 percent exceeding 15 parts per billion.
August 31, 2015: Email from Brad Wurfel (DEQ) to Stephen Busch, Liane Shekter Smith, Mike Prysby (all at DEQ) and DEQ Director Dan Wyant. With the following five key Snyder aides copied: Dennis Muchmore (chief of staff); Harvey Hollins (director of the Office of Urban Initiatives); Dave Murray (deputy press secretary); Eric Brown (senior federal policy representative), and Sara Wurfel (Snyder’s press secretary, and Brad Wurfel’s wife).
Brad Wurfel writes: “…just got this from the ACLU. Call me if you have questions/counsel.”
The rest is an email forwarded from Curt Guyette at ACLU-Michigan, asking Brad Wurfel to respond to Virginia Tech’s growing evidence of lead in Flint tap water.
Steve Busch at DEQ responds to Brad Wurfel’s urgent email: “Brad, we are aware of the VT professor. I can bring you up to speed this afternoon or whenever you are available.”
Busch forwards another email to Wurfel. This email is marked “High” priority and comes from Jennifer Crooks at EPA to Shekter Smith, Busch and others at MDEQ: “Today’s updates on Marc Edwards’ site. His staff is phone calling and emailing results to citizens. Talk at 2.”
September 2, 2015: “Virginia Tech researcher claims that the corrosiveness of the Flint River water is causing lead to leach into residents’ water.” (As reported in December 2015 Michigan Auditor General timeline.) The Virginia Tech revelations are much worse than that… The full report, published on FlintWaterStudy.org on September 11, declares:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: In other words, even with common anti-corrosion treatments, Edwards concludes Flint River water would be a potentially dangerous source for drinking. This begs fundamental questions… Why did it take a Virginia Tech researcher to run these tests a year and a half after the switch to Flint River water? Why didn’t the Flint Department of Public Works, MDEQ, or third-party engineers who studied the Flint water system connect these corrosion dots before the switch?
In January 2016 Gov. Snyder would apologize to the people of Flint. He would take responsibility for what he acknowledged were failures of government at all levels. His political legacy is undoubtedly and deeply stained forever by the crisis. He and his administration now face numerous forms of official investigation and surely many legal claims that will take a long time to adjudicate. The extent of the governor’s personal culpability – and the pace of response by the governor and his key aides – will surely be key questions in the investigations.
Yet Edwards’ fairly basic Flint corrosion and lead discoveries, MDEQ’s many failures, and MDHHS’s delays in seeing a lead connection in Flint children also bring legitimacy to questions the governor himself raised about front-line state agency incompetence in a January 2016 interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. Snyder asserted the department heads he appointed “were not being given the right information by quote-unquote experts… I use that word with great trial and tribulation because they were considered experts in terms of their backgrounds.” At many turns, those so-called state experts failed. Another fundamental question going forward… Can the rest of Michigan’s residents trust state experts, and elected officials, to protect statewide public drinking water supplies going forward?)
September 2, 2015: Snyder adviser Harvey Hollins emails the governor to inform that 1,500 kitchen water filters were donated, and coordinated by the administration, to the Flint Concerned Pastors for Social Action organization “as a way of providing added comfort amid concerns about Flint’s water quality.”
September 2, 2015: MDEQ’s Brad Wurfel responds to Virginia Tech revelations with more deflection and denials in a press release emailed to MLive.com reporter Ron Fonger. Key points:
September 3, 2015: Email from Flint Department of Public Works Director Howard Croft to numerous state and local officials, including Flint Mayor Dayne Walling:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Perhaps at this point Croft doesn’t know what will soon become public, including these revelations: 1) Investigators will determine that the city’s sampling methods were flawed – the city couldn’t confirm it was testing high-risk lead homes; 2) EPA would ultimately, but slowly, reach the forceful conclusion that MDEQ’s decision to not use corrosion control at the time of the water source switch was completely wrong, and 3) Controversy had long brewed between MDEQ and EPA over the state’s practice of pre-flushing home water lines before Flint lead samples were taken.)
September 6, 2015: Another DEQ denial in a quote from Brad Wurfel aired/published by Michigan Public Radio regarding the Virginia Tech lead testing results: “The samples don’t match the testing that we’ve been doing in the same kind of neighborhoods all over the city for the past year. With these kinds of numbers, we would have expected to be seeing a spike somewhere else in the other lead monitoring that goes on in the community.”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Hurley Medical Center Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha would soon prove the kind of lead-in-blood spike that MDHHS and MDEQ continue todeny exists.)
September 8, 2015: Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards publishes full results to date of his Flint water testing. Key points:
September 8, 2015: Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards sounds yet another alarm in email to Mayor Dayne Walling, who had requested to meet with Edwards.
September 9, 2015: Email from Brad Wurfel (MDEQ) to Ron Fonger at MLive questions Marc Edwards’ conclusions:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: This reasoning does not include such important things as: 1) Del Toral’s longstanding concerns about the sampling methods in Flint; and, 2) The fact that the number of lead samples in Flint actually decreased after Del Toral first made his lead concerns known to MDEQ, with state approval, from 100 in the first six-month test to 60 in the second six-month test. Later, investigators conclude that the city’s sampling procedures were flawed. Ultimately, in January 2016, the EPA announces it will take over lead sampling and monitoring in Flint.)
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Of course, this assertion completely ignores the controversy and explicit Del Toral warnings over corrosion control and sampling methods that has long brewed between EPA and DEQ.)
September 9, 2015: Email from Michelle Bruneau (a health educator in the MDHHS Toxicology and Response Section) to Kory Groetsch (MDHHS manager for Toxicology and Response)… Subject line: “Flint Lead is blowing up – may want to push meeting if we’re going to do something.” The email links to Michigan Radio coverage and MLive coverage of Virginia Tech’s testing results.
September 10 thru September 25: Some moments of seeming disbelief on the part of a national lead and copper rule expert connected with EPA as she seeks details from MDEQ about Flint’s water quality parameters.
(MICHIGAN TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: A clear admission: DEQ let Flint switch drinking water sources to the Flint River without establishing water quality parameters.)
September 10, 2015: Email from MDHSS health educator Michelle Bruneau to colleague Kory Groestch, apparently to discuss public relations talking points: “Edited version attached. It may be a good time to float the draft out to the others because if we’re going to take action it needs to be soon before the Virginia Tech University folks scandalize us all.”
September 10, 2015: Email from Jennifer Crooks (EPA) to Liane Shekter Smith (DEQ) with others at both agencies copied… Confirming notes of an August 31 conference call between DEQ/EPA. Key points:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: So here we have it… Clear acknowledgement by other EPA officials of what lone EPA regulator Miguel Del Toral surmised months earlier. It is important to note this meeting occurs on August 31. Yet MDEQ deflections and denials continue into September.)
The action plan arising out of the August 31 conference call includes: 1) general public information for Flint residents about lead (but nothing rising anything close to the “don’t drink the water” warnings soon issued by Genesee County officials; 2) Pushing forward on corrosion control in Flint; 3) Offering Flint free help from EPA experts to deal with corrosion control; and, 4) something called “laying the groundwork for MDEQ/EPA Collaboration with Flint” with the note that “although Flint (using their consultant) bears the ultimate responsibility for designing and installing corrosion control, MDEQ and EPA experts are willing and able to provide advice throughout the process.
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: We can’t help but ask, as we suspect many others will ask: Why didn’t this discussion occur before spring 2014 when Flint was preparing to make the switch to Flint River water?)
September 10: DEQ Director Dan Wyant receives an investigatory inquiry by email from Flint-area state legislators Jim Ananich, Sheldon Neely, and Phil Phelps. The inquiry is only partly displayed in publicly available email records. The letter opens as follows:
In light of recently released findings by the American Civil Liberties Union, independent researchers, and a troubling interim U.S. Environmental Protection Agency memo from June, we are requesting additional answers about the safety and treatment of the City of Flint’s water.
Several disturbing points have been raised and we have a number of urgent questions, including:
When did the MDEQ become aware of the June 24, 2015 Interim EPA memo and whom was it shared with?
Wyant responds to the legislators in a letter dated September 17 which is only partly revealed in publicly available email records: “With respect to the draft memo referenced in your letter, the MDEQ does not review or receive draft memos from the USEPA, nor would we expect to while it is a draft.”
September 11, 2015: Email from Jennifer Crooks (EPA) to Thomas Poy (EPA), and Shekter Smith, Benzie, and Busch at MDEQ. The email is titled, simply, “Clarification” and may relate to Flint legislators’ investigative letter sent to Wyant the day before:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: We can’t fault anyone here, most notably the inquiring Flint legislators, if they conclude MDEQ and EPA are engaging here in a disingenuous tap-dance of “hear no evil, speak no evil.” At this point, Miguel Del Toral’s June 24 EPA draft memo has been widely disseminated in the public sphere for two months. Email correspondence makes clear that MDEQ officials are fully aware in early July that the June 24 memo is publicly available. But MDEQ Director Dan Wyant tells legislators his agency doesn’t review or receive draft EPA memos. And a high-ranking EPA official issues a “clarification” to numerous MDEQ staffers that – officially – they’ve never seen the draft memo.)
September 11, 2015: Virginia Tech’s Edwards publishes results of a laboratory experiment concluding that the Flint River is 19 times more corrosive than Detroit water. “On a scientific basis, Flint River water leaches more lead from plumbing than does Detroit water as predicted before. This is creating a public health threat in some Flint homes that have lead pipe or lead solder. Unfortunately, adding orthophosphate corrosion inhibitor to the Flint River water does not solve the lead problem…. We believe that in the weeks and months ahead MDEQ and Flint will be forced to admit they failed to protect public health as required under the Federal Lead and Copper Rule.” (Truth Squad Note: This prediction proves absolutely right.) Solutions Edwards recommends at the time: Admit that Flint water is unsafe for cooking and drinking. And return Flint to Detroit drinking water.
September 11, 2015: Tom Poy (EPA) drafts an email response to inquiries from Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee about the growing crisis in Flint:
September 11, 2015:Email from Shekter Smith (MDEQ) to Linda Dykema and Kory Groestch at MDHHS: “Since we last spoke, there’s been an increase in the media regarding lead exposure. Any progress developing a proposal for a lead education campaign? We got a number of legislative inquiries that we are responding to. It would be helpful to have something more to say.” MDHHS’s Bruneau then responds to Groetsch two hours later with two words, “Told ya…” and a smiley face…. Groetsch then responds to Shekter Smith that Bruneau has written “the bones” of a health education and outreach plan and more discussion is needed.
September 11, 2015: As MDEQ’s top drinking water regulator seeks talking points, another staffer at MDHHS is beginning to see the rough outline of a bigger picture… Robert Scott, the data manager for the MDHHS Healthy Homes and Lead Prevention program, is copied on a Marc Edwards grant proposal to the National Science Foundation for funding for his Virginia Tech / Flint Water Study… Among other things, Edwards’s grant proposal describes a “perfect storm” of “out of control” corrosion of city water pipes leading to “severe chemical/biological health risks for Flint residents.” Scott forwards the grant proposal to MDHHS colleagues Nancy Peeler, Karen Lishinski, and Wesley Priem.
September 15, 2015: Flint Mayor Dayne Walling wants $30 million in state funds for infrastructure and capital improvements to the city’s water and sewer system. The state Treasury Department responds by saying the money isn’t available outside of a legislative appropriation.
September 15, 2015: MLive publishes a report with the headline: “Virginia Tech professor says Flint’s tests for lead in water can’t be trusted.” Key points:
September 17, 2015: Email from Susan Moran to numerous MDHHS colleagues: “FYI Front office also is asking about Flint water, let’s make sure we are communicating consistently. Copying Linda and Corrinne. While this is a public health concern, this is largely DEQ/local jurisdiction.” Corrinne Miller at MDHHS responds later same day… “Per the MDEQ, the compliance monitoring for lead within the city has never exceeded the EPA action level for lead.”
September 20, 2015: Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards alleges in email to EPA officials that Flint’s lead sampling techniques are seriously flawed. Key points:
I am writing everyone in regards to drinking water testing for lead & copper. The City needs assistance from residents to collect samples from their home. I believe I bothered everyone with a correspondence regarding this matter last year for our first sample round, but we are trying to finish up our second 6 month round of testing before the end of this month. If you live in the City or have family/friends who live in the city that would like to be part of the sampling group please contact me via email or call the water plant at (810)787-6537. Please forward this email to anyone who might be willing to participate.
Collecting a sample consists of letting the water sit stagnant in the pipes for 6 – 8 hours (usually overnight, or while at work/school/etc during the day) then filling a sample bottle and recording sampling and contact information on a form that is provided. Water Plant staff will deliver and pick up the sample bottle and accompanying form.
City of Flint
September 22, 2015: Email from MDHHS Environmental Public Health Director Lynda D. Dykema, PhD, to MDHHS colleagues Geralyn Lasher (MDHHS deputy director for external relations and communications) Nancy Peeler, and numerous others: “Here is a link to the VA Tech study re city of Flint drinking water… It appears that the researchers have completed testing of a lot of water samples and the results are significantly different than the city and DEQ data. It also appears that they’ve held public meetings in Flint, resulting in concerns about the safety of the water that have arisen in the last few days.”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Eleven days after Virginia Tech’s Edwards publishes his full Flint lead sampling results, MDHHS officials are finally grappling with the alarming findings in email correspondence.)
September 22, 2015: Flint pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha requests from Robert Scott and others at MDHHS full state records on blood tests to supplement her own Flint blood-lead research. The doctor says: “…since we have been unable to obtain recent MCIR blood lead data for Flint kids in response to the lead in water concerns, we looked at all the blood lead levels that were processed through Hurley Medical Center…” and describes “striking results.” (Truth Squad Note: Hurley is a major hospital in Flint.)
September 22, 2015: Email meeting notice from Kory Groetsch at MDHHS regarding a lead-related conference call among MDHHS, MDEQ, and Genesee County health officials. One of the agenda items for the meeting is…. “Current status of resources to put toward desired efforts (i.e., Who has time to do what? AKA – reality check.”)
September 23, 2015: A day before Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha releases a major study concluding Flint has a serious problem with children with elevated blood lead levels, ongoing questions prompt some reconsideration by Nancy Peeler, program director of the MDHHS program for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting. Two months earlier, MDHHS had noted they’d seen elevated lead-blood levels in Flint in summer 2014, but quickly concluded they saw no real relation to Flint water. Now Peeler’s second-guessing herself, as noted in this email “Based on questions coming through, I do think we need to run our Flint charts for the same population group that the Flint docs ran (as close as we can approximate the sample) but I’d look at it across the five years again. Depending on what our charts show, we may want to consider having (state epidemiologists) help us run an analysis more like the docs ran – but let’s look at the revised charts as a starting point.”
September 23, 2015: Email from Mikelle Robinson at MDHHS to colleagues describing a briefing being put together for the governor’s office on the Flint situation: “The DEQ… gave a long summary about the Flint water issues…. bottom line is that the water itself is safe but they have an old water treatment plan and old cast iron pipes that haven’t been upgraded in more than 40 years…. Flint is not in violation of the lead standards… DEQ briefed the mayor and some legislators on Monday on the situation… Flint’s water supply is not an imminent public health problem but a public confidence problem due to the many groups getting involved and controversial reports/media coverage on it.”
September 24, 2015, 10:26 a.m.: MDHHS Deputy Director Geralyn Lasher emails to MDHHS Director Nick Lyon and numerous other MDHHS staffers and managers… She had “just gotten off the phone with Nancy Peeler and Bob Scott and are putting together talking points about this ‘study’ that the physicians will be discussing that claims an increase in elevated blood levels in children since the change to the water system source.”
September 24, 2015: 1:16 p.m.: Angela Minicuci at MDHSS distributes “Flint Talking Points” in advance of a planned press conference by Hurley Medical Center and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. Key points:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: As we pointed out above during MDHHS’s internal analysis of lead data earlier in the summer, by the end of the year the governor’s office would acknowledge significant weaknesses in MDHHS’s data analysis. Again, as the governor’s communications director, Meegan Holland, stated in December 22, 2015 talking points for the governor: “It wasn’t until the Hurley report came out that our epidemiologists took a more in-depth look at the data by zip code, controlling for seasonal variation, and confirmed an increase outside of normal trends. As a result of this process, we have determined that the way we analyze data collected needs to be thoroughly reviewed.”)
September 24, 2015, 1:56 p.m.: Snyder Deputy Press Secretary Dave Murray emails more than a dozen state officials, including Muchmore (then-chief of staff), Jerrod Agen (the governor’s future chief of staff), Lasher, and Brad Wurfel at MDEQ: “Team, Here’s the data that will be presented at the Hurley Hospital press conference at 3 p.m. As you’ll see, they are pointing to individual children, a very emotional approach. Our challenge will be to show how our state data is different from what the hospital and the coalition members are presenting today.”
September 24, 2015: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha releases a groundbreaking study of elevated blood-lead levels in Flint children at a press conference. MLive reports the news in a story posted at 2:09 p.m. Key points:
September 24, 2015, 3:14 p.m.: As Dr. Hanna-Attisha releases her results, a MDHHS staffer scoffs. Email from Wesley Priem, manager of the MDHHS Healthy Homes Section, to colleague Kory Groetsch: “Yes, the issue is moving… at the speed of rushing water… I am trying to keep everyone updated… I am also trying at this minute to watch the teleconference on MLive… But not having much success… This is definitely being driven by a little science and a lot of politics.”… Three minutes later, Groetsch responds… “Best of luck.”
September 24, 2015, 3:45 p.m.: MDHHS lead data manager Robert Scott emails colleague Nancy Peeler with a new discovery. He attaches a spreadsheet to the email, says he has attempted to “recreate Hurley’s numbers,” and says he sees “a difference between the two years (presumably pre- and post-water switch), but not as much difference as (Hurley) did.” In other words, in attempting to replicate Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s methodology, he’s beginning to see something somewhat similar to what the Hurley doctor has found. Scott also notes in the email to Peeler: “I’m sure this one is not for the public.”
September 24, 2015: Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards presses hard on Robert Scott at MDHHS for state blood-lead records. In email to Scott, Edwards says Hurley researchers have been unable to get access to the records…. Edwards then asks: “Can you tell me why it is so difficult to get this data, and why your agency is raising so many obstacles to sharing it with everyone who asks?… I have to say, it is very disturbing that the state keeps issuing these blood lead reports and statements in their press releases, and refuses to share the data backing them up with outside researchers… I note that I have been asking to see your data since MDEQ first sent it to reporters back in August, and I count 10 email that I sent responding to all your questions. As of yet, you have given me nothing in response.”
Scott drafts an email response a day later:
September 25, 2015: A day after Dr. Hanna-Attisha releases her study, the City of Flint issues a health advisory, telling residents to flush pipes and install filters to prevent lead poisoning.
September 25, 2015, 1:19 p.m.: MDHHS’s Robert Scott responds to email from colleagues about Detroit Free Press interest in doing a lead story. At 12:16 p.m., Free Press reporter Kristi Tanner sends an email to Angela Minicuci at MDHHS saying Tanner had looked at the lead increase in Flint as shown in DHS records between 2013-2014 and 2-14-2015 and Tanner is concluding that the increase “is statistically significant.” MDHHS’s Peeler tasks Robert Scott with responding.
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: This attempted media spin completely ignores what Scott had told Peeler in email the previous afternoon. He’d crunched numbers and replicated something somewhat similar to the results of the Hurley lead study. Then again, as Scott had opined in his email to Peeler the previous afternoon, “I’m sure this one is not for the public.”)
September 25, 2015: Again, a day after telling Nancy Peeler he has begun to roughly approximate Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s Flint lead test results, Robert Scott makes no such acknowledgement in an email exchange directly with Dr. Hanna-Attisha.
September 25, 2015: Email from Snyder Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore to Snyder and others in Snyder’s office. Rather than rallying full resources to the rising crisis, the email is mainly a political analysis:
“The issue of Flint water and its quality continues to be a challenging topic. The switch over to use Flint River water has spurred most of the controversy and contention. The DEQ and (MDHHS) feel that some in Flint are taking the very sensitive issue of children’s exposure to lead and trying to turn it into a political football claiming the departments are underestimating the impacts on the populations and are particularly trying to shift responsibility to the state. We have put an incredible amount of time and effort into this issue because of the impacted neighborhoods and their children, and the KWA/DWSD controversy and Dillon’s involvement in the final decision. [Democratic Congressman Dan] Kildee is asking for a call with you. That’s tricky because he’s sure to use it publicly, but if you don’t talk with him it will just fan the narrative that the state is ducking responsibility. I can’t figure out why the state is responsible except that Dillon did make the ultimate decision so we’re not able to avoid the subject. The real responsibility rests with the County, city, and KWA, but since the issue is the health of citizens and their children we’re taking a pro-active approach putting (MDHHS) out there as an educator. I’m not sure how much background you need on all this so I don’t want to flood you with stuff. Jarrod and Dave have a lot of info that we can supplement your understanding and we can put a briefing or face to face with [DEQ Director Dan] Wyant and [MDHHS Director Nick] Lyon if you want to go there.”
September 25, 2015: Detroit Free Press publishes a report about Hanna-Attisha’s revelations and quotes MDEQ’s Brad Wurfel with yet another defense/deflection: “We’re confident with what we’ve done, but we know there are concerns.”
September 25, 2015: “High Importance” emails are now circulating within MDHHS. Rashmi Travis forwards a PowerPoint related to Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s study to Marc Miller. Miller sends it on to Linda Dykema and Wesley Priem and cautions: “FYI… Don’t distribute too broadly.” Dykema responds, “It would appear that the Hurley physicians are looking just at younger children, rather than 0-16” as did previous MDHHS analyses of the Flint lead situation.
September 25, 2015: Allison Scott, executive director to the governor, sends an email to the governor and key Snyder Administration staff. The email suggests the governor’s concerns are clearly heightening. Key points:
“Governor spoke with (State Senator Jim) Ananich this afternoon. He would like to do a call Monday morning with Dennis [Muchmore] and Dan Wyant to get latest and greatest information on this topic. After that will be some combination of he and Wyant speaking with Ananich. Any material on this topic please share over the weekend.”
September 25, 2015: Flint issues a lead advisory. “The City of Flint is issuing a Lead Advisory for residents to be aware of lead levels in drinking water after hearing concerns from the medical community. While the city is in full compliance with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, this information is being shared as part of a public awareness campaign to ensure that everyone takes note that no level of lead is considered safe.”
September 25, 2015: Email from MDHHS Deputy Director Geralyn Lasher to Snyder’s chief of staff Dennis Muchmore, MDEQ Director Dan Wyant, MDEQ Director of Communications Brad Wurfel and others. The email offers continued state agency skepticism of increased lead levels due to Flint water. Key points:
September 25, 2015: While Lasher tells the governor’s chief of staff and others top officials that MDHHS continues to review the Flint doctor’s “data,” there’s a flurry of emails the same day within the MDHHS with several people seemingly not sure what to do…
Saturday, September 26, 2015: Email from Snyder Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore to the governor and other key staffers. More politics.
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: The governor’s chief of staff is clearly hearing the explanations of the state agencies (MDEQ and MDHHS) charged with protecting drinking water and public health. But he’s apparently not hearing Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards and Dr. Hanna-Attisha. As events continue to unfold in coming weeks, it will become clear that Dennis Muchmore is hearing the wrong people when he writes these words in late September.)
September 28, 2015: Associated Press publishes another quoteattributed to MDEQ’s Brad Wurfel, who contends the water controversy is turning into “near hysteria.” And, “I wouldn’t call them irresponsible. I would call them unfortunate,” Wurfel said of the Hurley doctors’ comments. “Flint’s drinking water is safe in that it’s meeting state and federal standards. The system has an aging portion that needs to be addressed. They haven’t had meaningful maintenance for four decades or more.”
September 28, 2015: Letter from State Sen. Jim Ananich to Snyder: “It is completely unacceptable that respected scientific experts and our trusted local physicians have verified that the City of Flint’s drinking water is dangerous for our citizens, especially our most vulnerable young people.” Ananich calls for: 1) Switching water back to DWSD until KWA is ready; 2) Corrosion control; 3) Filters and bottled water assistance; 4) A long-term commitment to address outdated infrastructure. (All of which the Snyder Administration will eventually act on, but it will take weeks.)
September 28, 2015: While Ananich is demanding answers from the governor, MDHHS Director Nick Lyon is seeking help within his department to seemingly fight the Hurley/Virginia Tech research. He writes in a 7:52 a.m. email… “I need an analysis of the Virginia Tech/Hurley data and their conclusions. I would like to make a strong statement with a demonstration of proof that the lead blood levels seen are not out of the ordinary and are attributable to seasonal fluctuations. Geralyn (Lasher) is working on this for me but she needs someone in public health who can work directly with her on immediate concerns/questions.”
September 28, 2015: Genesee County Health Officer Mark Valacak demands answers via email to Mark Miller and Rashmi Travis at MDHHS: “I want to know whether you have confirmed with the lead program staff at MDHHS that the state results that purport that lead levels have not shown a significant increase since the changeover of the water supply for the city of Flint indeed represent Flint city zip codes only and not Flint mailing addresses. As I mentioned to you both this morning, Flint mailing addresses include outlying areas like Flint and Mundy Townships which obtain their water from the Detroit water authority.” Valacak presses the next morning… “Any results yet?” Twenty minutes later Miller responds, says he’s checking on it, but no, there are no results yet.
September 28, 2015: Another staff briefing on which the governor is copied. How does the state decide if the water is creating a lead problem? “Compliance with the federal lead rule is based on a 90th percentile calculation. If more than 10 percent of samples report lead above the federal action level of 15 parts per billion, a water supply has an ‘action level exceedance.’ An exceedance is not a violation. It triggers other requirements which could include public notification, additional water quality sampling, and possibly further treatment. While some of Flint’s individual samples exceeded 15 parts per billion lead action level, compliance is based on the 90th percentile of samples. The City of Flint’s 90th percentile level has ranged from 0 parts per billion in 2008 and 2011 and 15 parts per billion in 1992, but never exceeded the action level. The two most recent sampling periods, in 2014 and 2015, were 6 parts per billion and 11 parts per billion, respectively.” The memo further states that it would take 15 years to replace more than 15,000 lead service lines in the Flint water system at a cost of $60 million or more, plus up to $8,000 more per homeowner to replace lead connections on private property from city lines to residential taps.
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: The governor is still getting guidance from his administration that Flint’s lead levels are not out of compliance with drinking water standards. This is seven months after EPA’s Del Toral first raises alarms, weeks after Virginia Tech’s Edwards reports deeply troubling independent lead test results in Flint, four days after Hurley Dr. Hanna-Attisha releases research concluding major increases in Flint children’s blood-lead levels after the Flint River switch, and three days after the City of Flint has issued its own lead advisory to the public.)
September 29, 2015: Kristi Tanner and Nancy Kaffer at the Detroit Free Press publish their own analysis of the state’s blood-lead data in Flint… “Data that the State of Michigan released last week to refute a hospital researcher’s claim that an increasing number of Flint children have been lead-poisoned since the city switched its water supply actually supports the hospital’s findings, a Free Press analysis has shown. Worse, prior to the water supply change, the number of lead-poisoned kids in Flint, and across the state, had been dropping; the reversal of that trend should prompt state public health officials to examine a brewing public health crisis.”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: The Free Press report comes the morning after MDHHS Director Nick Lyon issues his directive that he wants an analysis that makes “a strong statement with a demonstration of proof that the lead blood levels seen are not out of the ordinary and are attributable to seasonal fluctuations.”)
September 29, 10:45 a.m.: Email from Executive Director to the Governor Allison Scott to top Snyder aides Dennis Muchmore, Jarrod Agen, Beth Clement, Dan Wyant and Nick Lyon. The email shows the governor may now finally be rising above months of state agency deflections, shifting his focus to the Hurley results, and beginning to use the term “emergency.” Key points:
“You will be receiving a meeting notice from Beth Emmit for a meeting with the Governor this afternoon. Listed below are areas that we should provide him an update on engagement; if not yet engaged, then we need to engage asap.
September 29, 2015: Genesee County Health Supervisor Jim Henry emails Michelle Bruneau at MDHHS regarding ongoing lead education plans and the growing street-level despair in Flint… “Today, I talked to a 46-year-old man who told me that he and his dog have not drank water or anything else, since he ran out of bottled water two days ago…. In general, the most immediate concern seems to be the unknown lead levels and the cost to reduce or eliminate the risk.” Bruneau forwards the email to colleague Kory Groetsch with commentary: “Wow… this is just sad. It sounds like third world country, but it’s here and in our backyard. At what point can EPA/ATSDR step in and provide resources?”
September 29, 2015, 12:06 p.m.: MDHHS Deputy Director Geralyn Lasher circulates to a variety of departmental colleagues an advisory from Genesee County indicating that the locals are taking matters in their own hands, demanding fresh analysis of state blood level data from DCH, and threatening to seek third-party analysis of the state data DCH has consistently used to suggest no elevated blood lead levels due to the Flint water. “The county is prepared to take further action if the State fails to provide the requested data by September 30, 2015. Further action could include a request for outside independent evaluation of the data and to declare a Public Health Emergency in Flint.”
September 29, 2015: Governor Rick Snyder receives a detailed timeline by email on all Flint water events from 2012 forward. (The document is prepared by the Michigan Department of Treasury and its findings are fully represented throughout this Truth Squad timeline.)
September 29, 2015: Email from MDHHS Deputy Director Geralyn Lasher to Nancy Peeler, Eden Wells (the state’s chief medical officer) , Robert Scott, and several others at MDHHS: “Is it possible to get the same type of data for just children under the age of six? So basically, the city of Flint kids ages six and under with the same type of approach as the attached chart you gave us last week?” Response, less than an hour later, from Linda Dykema to Corinne Miller, Sara LyonCallo and Eden Wells.. “It’s bad enough to have a data war with outside entities, we absolutely cannot engage in competing data analyses within the Department, or, heaven forbid, in public releases.” Moments later, Eden Wells issues a one-word response… “Agree.”
September 29, 12:25 p.m.: The same day there’s worry in MDHHS about a “data war,” Dr. Hanna-Attisha emails MDHHS Chief Medical Officer Eden Wells with clear updated findings of the Hurley study. Using geographic information system software, Hurley has isolated blood level results just in the city of Flint, especially in high-risk areas of the city (something the state analysis has not yet done).
In the two highest-risk wards, Hanna-Attisha reports in this email, “the elevated blood lead level percentage more than tripled.” Wells responds in email two hours later, says the state is working on replicating the analysis, and wants to know when Hurley is going public with its results.
Hanna-Attisha responds: “Our intent was has never been to go public with anything. However, when we noticed our findings and the glaring correlation to elevated water lead levels in the same locations and learned that corrosion control as never added to the water treatment, we ethically could not stay silent. In addition, your annual elevated blood level percentage supports our findings – annual decrease (as seen nationally) and then an increase post-water switch. We also knew that releasing our data would only incite a data war; however, the more we dig, the more alarming the results. (Do you know GM stopped using Flint River water because it was too corrosive on their parts??? That should have alerted us to its effect on lead pipes.)”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: In other words, this local Flint physician (with groundwork first by Virginia Tech) put all the pieces together – in contrast to months of inaction and denial on the part of the two state agencies charged with protecting the public health and drinking water.)
That same evening, Wells responds again: “I certainly understand your role and the need to address the problem you identified; as physicians, our ethical and professional vows to care for and prevent harm to our patients is paramount. No need for data wars – I think we are all just trying to be sure, as you and I said earlier, that we are comparing the same data the same way – ‘apples to apples.’”
September 29, 2015: Genesee County issues a health advisory about Flint water.
September 30, 2015: Mayor Dayne Walling receives fierce criticism for his repeated declarations that Flint River water was safe. Fr. Phil Schmitter, one of a number of concerned religious figures in Flint, writes: “You delayed your action on this issue for an inordinate amount of time. People were told over and over that it was all fine… I no longer trust the city on this issue. And that we have now a lead problem for babies and children is unconscionable.”
Walling forwards the email directly to DEQ Director Dan Wyant and says, “I have searched myself over and over on this. I don’t know what more I could have done given the guidance coming from EPA and DEQ and subsequently city staff but this major health issue did come up anyway and our community is paying a huge price. As the press conference is put together, it is necessary in my mind that we provide an explanation for how this happened and outline the steps that ensure it will never happen again.”
October 1, 2015: Genesee County Public Health Officials issue an advisory telling Flint residents not to drink the city water.
October 1, 2015: MLive reports the “city knows which homes in Flint have pipes most likely to leach lead into tap water but can’t easily access the information because it’s kept on 45,000 index cards.” Flint Department of Public Works Director Howard Croft “said Wednesday September 30 that he ‘can’t put a number on’ how long it will take the city to convert its paper records into electronic data or maps that can be used to pinpoint lead hot spots. ‘It’s on our to-do list,’ he said. Work on computerizing information on the index cards has started, but about 75 percent of the work remains.”
October 1, 2015: The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services now confirms the results of the Dr. Hanna-Attisha/Hurley Medical Center Study (showing greatly increased blood lead levels in some Flint neighborhoods). A MDHHS “talking points” memo from email records offers more admissions and context, yet the agency is still downplaying the issue in some ways. Key points of the “talking points” memo:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Bottom line: The state had not previously performed this detailed analysis, despite clear reason to focus on precise locations and populations in the city of Flint for months. It took a Flint doctor to show state government experts the path to the truth. With this admission, state agencies and the Snyder Administration finally begin to shift from defense, denial, and deflection to action.)
More emails that evening, between DCH Director Nick Lyon and Chief Medical Officer Eden Wells…
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: The bottom line, Lyon didn’t get the MDHHS data defense he’d requested just a few days earlier. The data showed just the opposite. The scientific proof of the true extent of the Flint disaster is completely brought to light by outside researchers (Virginia Tech and Hurley). Those outside researchers must first overcome the denials and deflections of two state departments in which dozens of state workers – from Snyder appointees and spokespeople, to medical “experts,” to technical regulators and other government employees – all whiffed.)
October 1, 2015: Suddenly swift action by the Snyder Administration. Email from chief of staff Muchmore to the governor and others, noting that “we have the proposal back” from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to reconnect the City of Flint to Detroit water. Details: “Short term reconnect is ok until KWA starts operating… No reconnect fee and immediate reconnect… Expenses incurred at actual cost… Fixed monthly rate of $662,000… Only extends to Flint… (Detroit) Mayor (Mike) Duggan is more than willing to lend his support.”
October 2, 2015: More suddenly swift action by the Snyder Administration as documented in email from aides to the governor. There are new outlines of infographics/posters of planned state action including:
October 2, 2015: Email from Snyder Deputy Press Secretary Dave Murray transmits a release by MDEQ Director Dan Wyant and MDHHS Director Nick Lyon with more admissions:
October 2, 2015: Governor Snyder announces a “comprehensive action plan” to address Flint water issues. Key talking points provided by staff:
October 6, 2015: Emails indicate MDEQ Director Dan Wyant will update the governor daily on the Flint water action plan announced October 2. Other correspondence says 4,600 water filters are distributed on this day alone.
October 7, 2015: State Budget Director John Roberts outlines $10.4 million in state aid to implement the action plan of October 2.
October 8, 2015: City of Flint develops its plan to reconnect to Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. (As reported in a timeline produced by the Michigan Auditor General in December 2015).
October 15, 2015: Snyder signs a bill authorizing $6 million in state aid to move Flint back to Detroit water until the Karegnondi Water Authority is finished. Several million more dollars authorized for drinking water sample testing, water filters for Flint residents, follow up services for children. City of Flint also kicks in $2 million and the Charles Steward Mott Foundation provides $4 million.
October 15, 2015: Email from Liane Shekter Smith (MDEQ) to DEQ colleagues Brad Wurfel, Jim Sygo, and George Krisztian. Key points:
October 16, 2015: Flint reconnects to the Detroit drinking water system (sourced from Lake Huron). But, after many months without corrosion control in the Flint distribution system, the switch does not immediately solve the lead problem. Bottled water will remain the safest drinking source for Flint residents into 2016.
October 16, 2015: EPA establishes the Flint Safe Drinking Water Task Force to “”assist with developing and implementing a plan to secure water quality” in Flint.
Sunday, October 18, 2015: MDEQ Director Dan Wyant admits to the governor that his department has made a huge mistake.
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Bottom line… In effect, after eight months of systemic denial throughout his department, the MDEQ director finally admits that EPA researcher Miguel Del Toral was right all along.)
October 19, 2015: Detroit News reporter Jim Lynch puts the Wyant admission in clear context in a lengthy published report. Key points:
October 21, 2015: Governor Snyder announces a Flint Water Task Force to review state, federal and municipal actions related to the Flint crisis.
October 26, 2015: Former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley pens a Detroit News guest column titled, “Don’t blame EM for Flint water disaster.” Among the assertions: “This was a local decision that was made by local civic leaders. Anyone who says otherwise is being disingenuous.”
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Earley writes this despite the fact that then-State Treasurer Andy Dillon made the “ultimate decision” to switch from DWSD, state-appointed emergency manager Ed Kurtz hired an engineering firm to figure out how to use the Flint River as a primary water source, and Earley himself penned the letter to DWSD saying Flint was switching water sources to the Flint River.)
November 3, 2015: EPA issues clarifying national orders on the Lead and Copper Rule and corrosion control. The EPA acknowledges ambiguity in the LCR in the past regarding corrosion control, but the November 3 letter sets out strong language for change and how to prevent the Flint situation from reoccurring in the future:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: Bottom line: EPA researcher Miguel Del Toral was apologized for by the EPA’s top official in the Midwest in July. He was ignored and discredited by MDEQ staff for months. Now, this federal order reinforces virtually all of Del Toral’s concerns about Flint’s water supply dating back to February.)
November 10, 2015: EPA publicly announces a full audit of the MDEQ’s oversight of public water supplies statewide in the wake of the Flint disaster. The audit will take several months.
November 16, 2015: MDEQ briefing paper to the Flint Water Task Force. Key points:
(TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: This is an amazing statement. Chlorides accelerate corrosion, so much so that the Flint water was no longer suitable for GM’s manufacturing processes. Corrosion also accelerates lead levels in drinking water. Outside experts like Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards and Flint Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha clearly connected these dots. Yet MDEQ did not react to this General Motors warning sign.)
November 21, 2015: The American Journal for Public Health accepts for publication in its February 2016 edition a peer reviewed research paper led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha titled, “Elevated Blood Lead Levels in Children Associated With the Flint Drinking Water Crisis: A Spatial Analysis of Risk and Public Health Response.” Key conclusions:
November 23, 2015: EPA’s Flint Drinking Water Task Force provides comments to MDEQ’s revised Lead and Copper Sampling Instructions, and appears to validate Del Toral’s early misgivings about how the state directed lead sampling in Flint.”The task force agrees with the removal of pre-flushing.”
December 3, 2015: The staff of State Representative Adam Zemke sends email to MDEQ requesting feedback on a bill he plans to introduce to require drinking water in schools be tested at least once every three years. MDEQ’s Liane Shekter Smith responds in email four days later: “… (T)his is a huge expense…. They have to figure there are approximately 30 drinking water faucets on average at each school… I suspect it’s a really big number! This proposal is also disconnected from how water sampling is accomplished. Most parameters are required to be met at the plant tap (at the point the water enters the distribution system). Only a few parameters (lead, copper, disinfection byproducts, bacteria) are monitored out in the system at customer taps. Even if the proposal were to be for only lead and copper, this is a huge expense that would be placed on the supplier of water inappropriately. I understand the desire to have this kind of information, but if the legislature wants to require this monitoring, the burden for this should be on the schools or the board of education.”
December 5, 2015: A Genesee County Health Department official accuses state officials of attempting to cover up their mishandling of the investigation into the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that sickened 87 people in 2014 and 2015, and killed 10, according to emails obtained by the Detroit Free Press. “The state is making clear they are not practicing ethical public health practice,” Tamara Brickey, the health department’s public health division director, writes to other county health officials. “Now evidence is clearly pointing to a deliberate cover-up,” Brickey writes. “In my opinion, if we don’t act soon, we are going to become guilty by association.”
December 14, 2015: City of Flint declares emergency.
December 16, 2015: EPA Flint Drinking Water Task Force says Flint should not switch to KWA water in 2016 until the treated water meets finished water quality goals, plant operational issues are identified and dealt with, water plant operations staff are proficient in treating the new source, and Flint performs numerous assessments. (The kind of pre-planning and safety checks Flint and MDEQ never performed before the switch to Flint River water.
December 22: Email from Snyder Communications Director Meegan Holland to Snyder and other aides regarding new revelations by Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards. Key points:
TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: In other words, here’s yet another huge gap in the regulatory framework to protect public health. The concerns of two established outside researchers (from EPA and Virginia Tech) weren’t sufficient to prompt state agencies to reconsider their approach to lead detection. It took a local physician to open up the state’s eyes to the problem they had strongly denied.)
December 23, 2013: The Michigan Auditor General provides an investigative report of Flint Water issues as requested by State Senator Jim Ananich. Key points:
December 28, 2015: Email from Jerrod Agen, who is transitioning from communications director to chief of staff, to Governor Rick Snyder, alerting him to the release coming the next day of the key Flint Water Advisory Task Force conclusions:
December 29, 2015: Flint Water Advisory Task Force, the investigation team established weeks earlier by Gov. Snyder, issues its preliminary conclusions. Key points:
“We believe the primary responsibility for what happened in Flint rests with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). Although many individuals and entities at the state and local levels contributed to creating and prolonging the problem, MDEQ is the government agency that has responsibility to ensure safe drinking water in Michigan. It failed in that responsibility and must be held accountable for that failure.”
The MDEQ failed in three fundamental ways.
(Truth Squad Note: This task force includes: 1) Ken Sikkema, former Republican Senate Majority Leader; 2) Chris Kolb, head of the Michigan Environmental Council and a former Democratic state legislator; 3) Matthew Davis, a University of Michigan pediatrician; 4) Eric Rothstein, a water consultant; 5) Lawrence Reynolds, a Flint pediatrician and president of the Mott Children’s Health Center.)
December 29, 2015: Email from Communications Director Meegan Holland to Gov. Snyder detailing a statement from the governor to staff and media that afternoon:
December 30, 2015: DEQ Director Dan Wyant and DEQ chief spokesman Brad Wurfel resign.
January 4, 2016: Genesee County Commission declares a state of emergency.
January 12, 2016: Governor activates National Guard to assist with Flint water emergency and requests FEMA to coordinate an inter-agency recovery plan to provide resources to Flint. “Flint residents can continue to pick up free bottled water, water filters, replacement cartridges, and home water testing kits at the water resource sites.”
January 13, 2015: Snyder announces 87 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, including 9 deaths, since spring 2014. It is unclear if the diseases are linked to Flint River water. This is the first public notification, 10 months after the MDEQ notified Hollins that the outbreak coincided with the switch to Flint River water. State officials do not connect the disease outbreak or deaths to the Flint water system. Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor, says there is a “very strong likelihood” the outbreak is connected to Flint’s water.
January 13, 2016: The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announces the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Genesee County between June 2014 and November 2015. This is the first public notification, 10 months after the MDEQ notified Hollins that the outbreak coincided with the switch to Flint River water. State officials do not connect the disease outbreak or deaths to the Flint water system. Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor, says there is a “very strong likelihood” the outbreak is connected to Flint’s water.
January 15, 2016: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announces an investigation of the Flint water situation.
January 16, 2016: President Obama declares a federal emergency in Flint.
January 16, 2016: Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards writes on his blog: “Even worse, many residents currently refuse to believe that Flint’s water is acceptable for bathing and showering, which is a concern because the public health benefits from basic sanitation, outweigh the relatively low dangers from lead and legionella that are currently in Flint water.”
January 19, 2016: Snyder’s State of the State Address is devoted primarily to the Flint crisis, and he addresses Flint residents directly: “I’m sorry and I will fix it… You did not create this crisis, and you do not deserve this…. Government failed you at the federal, state and local level… We need to make sure this never happens again in any Michigan city.”
January 19, 2016: Impassioned, perhaps even outrageous statements all around on WKAR’s “Off the Record” post-state of the state TV show:
January 20, 2016: Snyder appeals federal denial of major disaster declaration for Flint, which had it been granted would have made Flint eligible for more relief money than the earlier state of emergency. “This situation poses an imminent and long-term threat to the people of Flint… The problems will contribute to years – and potentially decades – of health problems and economic loss as well as require repairs to the infrastructure that neither the city, county nor state has the capacity to carry out.”
January 20, 2016: Michigan House passes a $28 million supplemental spending bill to aid Flint’s recovery from the water crisis. “My further commitment is the $28 million is just one more step toward a long-term solution. There is more to come,” Snyder says via press release. The bill is signed into law January 29.
January 21, 2016: EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman resigns over the Flint water crisis. She was a 2010 appointee of President Obama. Days earlier, on January 12, the Detroit News published an interview with Hedman in which she defended her actions and attempted to deflect blame. “Let’s be clear, the recommendation to DEQ (regarding the need for corrosion controls) occurred at higher and higher levels during this time period,” Hedman told The News. “And the answer kept coming back from DEQ that ‘no, we are not going to make a decision until after we see more testing results.’” Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards doesn’t buy it: As soon as the lack of corrosion controls became apparent, state e and federal officials should have acted to protect the public, the News quoted Edwards as saying. “At that point, you do not just have smoke, you have a three-alarm fire and respond immediately. There was no sense of urgency at any of the relevant agencies, with the obvious exception of Miguel del Toral, and he was silenced and discredited.”
January 21, 2016: President Obama announces $80 million in aid to Michigan, in part to help with Flint’s water infrastructure repairs.
January 21, 2016: EPA issues Emergency Order concerning Flint Water.
Starting with a cover letter from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to Gov. Rick Snyder:
And then the order itself:
January 22, 2016: Governor goes on “Morning Joe” show on MSNBC and takes state workers to task. “The heads were not being given the right information by quote-unquote experts… I use that word with great trial and tribulation because they were considered experts in terms of their backgrounds.”
January 22, 2016: Detroit Free Press reports that “The activist hacker group Anonymous has launched a Flint operation and is calling for Gov. Rick Snyder to be charged with ‘voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.”… The crimes committed by Gov. Snyder as well as other city officials will not go unpunished.”
January 22, 2016: The Flint Water Advisory Task Force calls for the governor to engage with USEPA staff experts “versed in Lead and Copper Rule requirements… These individuals should be empowered to guide implementation of a comprehensive LCR sampling program in Flint that will monitor lead levels now and throughout the conversion to raw water supply by the Karegnondi Water Authority and full-time use of the Flint Water Treatment Plant.” The first among EPA experts the task force recommends to the governor is Miguel Del Toral, whose alarms about Flint were dismissed and hidden by the EPA and MDEQ throughout 2015.
January 22, 2016: Gov. Snyder returns additional executive powers to the mayor of Flint. “Mayor Weaver will now have the authority to appoint the city administrator and all department heads. Today’s action is the next step in transitioning to full, local control in Flint,” Snyder says in a press release.
January 22, 2016: Two MDEQ employees are “suspended pending an investigation, in accordance with Civil Service rules,” says a press release from the governor’s office. The employees are not named in the press release, though will soon be identified in media reports and state correspondence as Stephen Busch and Liane Shekter Smith.
January 22, 2016: New MDEQ Director Keith Creagh responds to an EPA emergency order of the day before, says the state “looks forward to working cooperatively” with EPA and the City of Flint on the drinking water issue, and then he takes a more combative stance: “The Order does not reference the tens of millions of dollars expended by or in the process of being expended by the State for water filters, drinking water, testing, and medical services.”
January 25, 2015: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette taps attorney Todd Flood (a defense attorney and former Wayne County assistant prosecutor) and former Detroit FBI bureau chief Andy Arena to lead a wide-ranging investigation into potential misconduct in office concerning the Flint water disaster. At the same time, State Representative LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit) files a petition with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to remove Schuette’s office from the Flint water crisis investigation claiming major conflicts of interest.
January 29, 2016: Revelations continue to flow out of the crisis. Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy group, reveals a new set of state emails showing that state workers in Flint offices switched to purified water coolers as early as January 2015, even as state agencies were telling themselves, the Snyder administration and Flint residents that Flint water was safe.
February 2, 2016: The federal probe of the Flint water crisis turns criminal in nature. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit confirms that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division are on the case.
February 5, 2016: Snyder announces that Liane Shekter Smith, head of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance for the state DEQ, is fired. Four months prior, Shekter Smith had received a performance bonus of $2,652, according to the Detroit News. She is the first to be fired in connection with the Flint water crisis. “Putting the well-being of Michiganders first needs to be the top priority for all state employees,“ Snyder says in a written statement.
February 26, 2016: Governor Snyder signs a $30 million supplemental budget bill for Flint. Among other things, it provides water bill credits to Flint residents for the portion of their water they could not safely use for drinking, bathing and cooking.
March 5, 2016: Fitch Ratings declares that it could cost $275 billion nationwide to replace drinking water service lines containing lead.
March 6, 2016: Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debate in Flint, blame the water crisis on the Republican Party, and both call on Governor Rick Snyder to resign. Snyder responds, issuing a press release documenting his administration’s responses to provide bottled water, National Guard help, funding and other assistance to the city and repeats his declaration that he will stay and fix the problems in Flint.
March 11, 2016: Governor Snyder calls for a full investigation of how the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services handled lead poisoning and Legionnaire’s disease issues throughout the crisis. The governor tasks the state’s Auditor General and MDHHS Inspector General with the probe.
March 18, 2016: It’s barb-trading all around in Congress as Governor Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testify in hearings. Republicans slam McCarthy. Democrats slam Snyder. And Snyder and McCarthy slam each other. Very little new information arises about the Flint water crisis. The Snyder-McCarthy testimony highlights numerous congressional hearings filled with finger-pointing but very little in the way of future-oriented preventative strategy or new revelations not already in the public record.
March 23, 2016: Flint is a case of “environmental injustice,” the Snyder-appointed Flint Water Task Force declares in its final report, laying the blame squarely on the Snyder Administration and its state agencies. The report also is highly critical of the state’s emergency manager law, saying the unilateral authority of emergency managers in Flint played a significant role in causing and prolonging the crisis and presented a lack of decision-making checks and balances. Emergency managers were too narrowly focused on financial issues in the water switch, the task force concluded. As in the task force’s preliminary reports, it found that the MDEQ and MDHHS both fundamentally failed in their missions to protect public health.
March 29, 2016: Flint utilities manager Mike Glasgow says in a Michigan legislative hearing that it was a “bad decision” to switch to the Flint River. He explains that the city had 26 employees to handle water treatment at the time of the switch in 2014. By comparison, the city had 40 water treatment employees a decade earlier when the treatment plant only served as a backup to water supplied by the city of Detroit.
April 1, 2016: Tensions rise between the Snyder Administration and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. The mayor claims she’s being left out of state recovery planning. And the state warns Flint to withdraw threats of a city vs. state lawsuit over the water crisis.
April 11, 2016: State health officials announce that the death toll from the Legionnaires’ outbreak has grown to 12.
April 13, 2016: The Michigan Legislature extends a state of emergency in Flint over the water crisis through the end of summer.
April 15, 2016: As very high lead levels are found in nearly 20 Detroit schools’ drinking water, the city’s health chief urges lead screening for children city wide.
April 15, 2016: Governor Snyder proposes that Michigan adopt some of the toughest anti-lead standards in the country – tougher than federal rules – including annual testing in all schools, day care centers, adult foster care, and substance abuse clinics.
April 15, 2016: As the latest testing suggests lead levels in Flint drinking water are dropping, but still potentially harmful, Governor Snyder says he’d like to see Flint residents begin transitioning back to filtered tap water instead of bottled water. Flint residents remain reticent. Some suggest that Snyder should come to their homes and drink the water first.