AFRICANGLOBE – Michigan Governor Rick Snyder may have known about the Flint River’s toxicity as early as December 2012, according to a new report.
Ed Kurtz, Gov. Snyder’s first appointed emergency manager (EM), was given authority to make all financial decisions on behalf of Flint’s elected officials (as part of the controversial EM law Snyder passed early in his administration) first considered switching the city’s municipal water supply to the Flint River at the end of 2012. However, as the Daily Beast reported, Kurtz dismissed the idea after floating the proposal to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
This detail wasn’t made public until the Beast‘s Curt Guyette discovered a taped deposition from Jerry Ambrose, the Chief Financial Officer of Flint’s EM committee, who would later become Flint’s fourth EM. Ambrose gave the statement under oath in 2014 as part of a separate civil lawsuit filed by municipal retirees fighting Gov. Snyder’s cuts to their health benefits:
“There was brief evaluation of whether the city would be better off to simply use the Flint River as its primary source of water over the long term,” Ambrose said. “That was determined not to be feasible.”
Who determined it wasn’t feasible?” Gibbs asked.
“It was a collective decision of the emergency management team based on conversations with the MDEQ that indicated they would not be supportive of the use of the Flint River on a long-term basis as a primary source of water,” Ambrose answered.
“What was the reason they gave?” Gibbs asked.
“You’ll have to ask them,” Ambrose said.
It’s still not confirmed if Ambrose and Kurtz told Snyder about the danger of using the Flint River as a source of municipal drinking water in December of 2012, since Snyder refuses to release any emails about Flint from late 2012 or 2013, when state officials were initially discussing the cancellation of Flint’s water contract with Detroit. But one Flint city administrator alleges that the decision to make the switch was made by Gov. Snyder himself. In the fall of 2015, former Flint public works director Howard Croft told the Michigan ACLU that the decision to officially make the Flint River the city’s interim water source was financial, and that it handed down from Snyder’s office.
However, the financial argument doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, nor do the other comments made by the Snyder administration about the switch.
The Snyder administration had previously claimed that DWSD was cutting off the city of Flint, meaning the switch to the Flint River was a last resort. “The Detroit Water and Sewer Department at the time, back last spring, said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna cut you off,’” former Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.
However, a blistering report from Motor City Muckraker compiled from various public documents show the Snyder administration was offered a 50 percent discount from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to continue supplying Flint with drinking water, but the Snyder administration repeatedly declined DWSD’s offers.
“When compared over the 30 year horizon the DWSD proposal saves $800 million dollars or said differently – saves 20% over the KWA proposal,” then-DWSD Director Sue McCormick said in the e-mail dated April 15, 2013.
The e-mail was first obtained by the Bill Johnson Group, a Detroit-based media consulting firm, and confirmed today by DWSD.
“If Snyder had accept this deal, the catastrophe would have been avoided,” Bill Johnson said.
A letter from Darnell Earley to the DWSD, made public by the Michigan ACLU, further confirms that Snyder’s appointees overseeing Flint rejected the DWSD’s multiple offers to supply drinking water at a heavily-discounted rate.
“Thank you for the correspondence […] which provides Flint with the option of continuing to purchase water from DWSD… The City of Flint has actively pursued using the Flint River as a temporary water source… There will be no need for Flint to continue purchasing water to serve its residents and businesses after April 17, 2014.”
What Gov. Snyder knew about the Flint River and when is still up in the air, but there’s now strong evidence showing that Snyder’s appointees knew about how dangerous the Flint River was, yet still forced the switch due to supposed “financial reasons.”
A petition calling for Gov. Snyder’s arrest over the Flint water crisis, circulated by documentary filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore, has nearly 126,000 signatures as of this writing. Click here to sign the petition.
By: Zach Cartwright