A new update on the Flint Water Crisis has emerged, and it continues to spell bad news for the Snyder Administration. In emails first obtained by The Flint Journal, local health officials in Flint accuse Governor Snyder and his administration of purposefully withholding the results of lead testing in the city’s schools before making them available to the public.
As has been widely documented by now, Flint switched its water source in April 2014 to the Flint River and negligently failed to use corrosion controls, which in turn caused dangerously toxic levels of lead to infiltrate the city’s water system.
On October 2, 2015, a day after Snyder claims he learned that there were elevated lead levels in the city (though somehow Flint City and State officials had already been receiving bottled water for months), he initiated lead testing throughout the city and school district.
However, as these emails allege, the results of those tests weren’t released to the public for an additional six days, despite the numerous (and irreversible) health risks associated with consuming even small amounts of lead-contaminated water.
In one of the emails, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Jim Henry, the county’s environmental health supervisor, wrote, “MDEQ [the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality] explained that the Governor prohibited releasing all Genesee County lead results until after the press conference,” which took place on October 8.
In an interview this Wednesday with the Journal, Henry elaborated that Genessee County officials like him didn’t learn about the test results until they were distributed at the press conference. “They should have alerted the schools and they didn’t,” he said.
When finally made public, the tests clearly showed that three school district buildings had tested above 15 parts of lead per billion, which is the legal limit above which the Environmental Protection Agency mandates corrective action be taken.
After the press conference finally took place, Henry and drinking water chief Liane Shekter Smith met with DEQ officials on October 16, and according to an email Henry sent on October 18th summarizing, she claimed that Snyder ordered them to delay the release.
Three days after that meeting, the DEQ announced that Shekter Smith was being reassigned, which eventually resulted in her termination on February 5th.