A document released on Thursday has revealed that state workers in Flint were trucking in their own water supply in January of 2015, almost a year before the governor publicly acknowledged the lead contamination problem.
The document, a facility notification sent by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB), refers to a notice about a violation of drinking water standards that had recently been sent out by the City of Flint.
The notice, which was obtained by the liberal advocacy group, Progress Michigan said: “While the City of Flint states that corrective actions are not necessary, DTMB is in the process of providing a water cooler on each occupied floor”
A spokesperson for the group says Gov. Rick Snyder needs to explain why his administration trucked water into a state building while still allowing residents to drink unsafe water.
— Progress Michigan (@ProgressMich) January 29, 2016
The water coolers were to be installed next to the drinking fountains so that state workers could “chose which water to drink.”
The document was obtained by Progress Michigan, a liberal group that demands accountability from state and city officials. It is dated January 7, 2015.
However, state officials repeatedly insisted Flint tap water was safe to drink for nearly all of 2015, with Governor Rick Snyder only acknowledging the problem in October of 2015. He declared a state of emergency on January 5, 2016 – about a year after the notice was sent out.
“It appears the state wasn’t as slow as we first thought in responding the Flint Water Crisis. Sadly, the only response was to protect the Snyder administration from future liability and not to protect the children of Flint from lead poisoning,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, in a statement. “While residents were being told to relax and not worry about the water, the Snyder administration was taking steps to limit exposure in its own building.”
— Vickie Thomas (@VickiethomasWWJ) January 29, 2016
Drinking water in Flint was contaminated after the city moved away from the Detroit water system in 2014 and began pulling water from the polluted Flint River. Officials failed to properly treat the water, which leached lead from pipes and became contaminated as it traveled to homes and other buildings.
An email chain connected to the document showed that the Department of Environmental Quality was aware of the notification and action taken to limit the exposure of state workers to Flint’s water.
“Another day and another example of the Snyder administration’s lackluster response to this crisis. Worse yet, this shows that the response was not only late and so far ineffective, but it was also unequal,” Scott said. “Governor Snyder needs to explain to the people of Flint why his administration trucked water into a state building while allowing residents to drink unsafe water.”
Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for DTMB, told the Detroit Free Press that the water coolers were still being provided because “there were more findings [of contamination] as we went along.”