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Email from Snyder's chief of staff: People in Flint are "getting blown off by us"

Jan 7, 2016

A new set of e-mails released today show that an official with Governor Snyder's office expressed concern about the Flint water situation as early as July 2015.

The internal e-mails were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards.

You can view them here.

In one e-mail, Dennis Muchmore, Gov. Snyder’s then-chief of staff, writes the following:

“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 the DEQ samples … 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).”

At that point, people in Flint had been complaining about their water for more than a year. And an EPA memo that Lindsey Smith wrote about last July showed that people might be getting exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water.

Edwards says the concern coming from the governor’s office didn’t stop the state’s message that the water was safe.

“The whole drama and tragedy was allowed to play out over another couple more months at that point,” Edwards says.

He says the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was directed to take a closer look at the blood lead level data in Flint – but despite having data that showed lead levels were increasing – he says the MDHHS followed the MDEQ's lead, and continued to claim that the water was safe.

“Unfortunately what happened is the scientists who were looking at that data reached out to MDEQ and were fed MDEQ talking points that there’s nothing wrong with the water," says Edwards. "That everything in Flint is fine except for outside groups stirring up the pot.”

Last week, the governor apologized to the people of Flint, and promised to learn from the mistakes made there. State officials say they are working closely with Flint leaders and other researchers to make sure the drinking water in the city is safe.