Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder released more than 250 pages of his emails Wednesday regarding the Flint water crisis.
They date from 2014 and 2015 and, taken as a whole, help paint the picture of how officials responded to concerns about toxic lead contamination in Flint’s tap water.
Individually, some are striking.
Here are five of the most notable emails from the governor’s release:
February 1, 2015
An email on this date included a Department of Environmental Quality “backgrounder,” which discussed complaints about the taste, smell and color of Flint’s water.
It stressed that the Safe Drinking Water Act works to ensure that water is safe to drink but does not regulate aesthetic values of water.
The backgrounder went on to list three factors affecting the aesthetics of water in Flint.
“It’s the Flint River,” it said first. “With hard water, you get a different flavor and feel. It’s why General Motors suspended use of Flint Water — it was rusting their parts.”
Second, “the system is old. Flint has more than 500 miles of water pipes. More than half of those pipe miles are more than 75 years old. Much of it is cast iron. Hard water can react with cast iron and exacerbates the rusty factor, which creates that brown water that angry residents were holding up in jugs for the media cameras last week.”
And third, “Flint is old. Many of the homes served by the system are old. Brown water complaints may also be attributable to cast iron pipes in customers’ service connection to the city lines,” the backgrounder read.
September 5, 2015
Harvey Hollins, director of urban initiatives, tells the governor that 1,500 kitchen water filters were delivered and distributed to Flint residents.
He wrote that the donated supply was exhausted in four hours with “200 people still waiting to get a filter.”
The governor asks: “Factually accurate update; but how did it go over with the residents?”
To which Hollins responds: “Governor, it went over extremely well with the residents. There is a demand for more.”
September 25, 2015
“The issue of Flint water and its quality continues to be a challenging topic,” wrote Dennis Muchmore, Snyder’s then-chief of staff.
In this email, the staffer expressed concern the water crisis was being politicized and argued the issue was not primarily the state’s problem.
“The DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) and DCH (Department of Community Health) 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 particularly trying to shift responsibility to the state,” said Muchmore.
September 26, 2015
Muchmore returns to the issue of responsibility one day later, telling the governor “it’s really the city’s water system that needs to deal with it.”
“The water certainly has occasional less than savory aspects like color because of the apparently more corrosive aspects of the hard water coming from the river, but that has died down with the additional main filters. Taste and smell have been problems also and substantial money has been extended to work on those issues,” he writes.
“Of course, some of the Flint people respond by looking for someone to blame instead of working to reduce anxiety. We can’t tolerate increased lead levels in any event, but it’s really the city’s water system that needs to deal with it.”
Muchmore adds: “We’re throwing as much assistance as possible at the lead problem as regardless of what the levels, explanations or proposed solutions, the residents and particularly the poor need help to deal with it.”
October 6, 2015
The regularity and intensity of emails has picked up by this point as it’s become increasingly clear that Flint is a major problem.
The governor himself writes “we need a better update system.”
“I saw in the press this am that DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) announced yesterday that water filters would start being given out today. This should have come internally with more detail. I had press questions last night.
“Overall, we should have a daily report on Flint until our recommendations are fully implemented,” Snyder wrote.