What happens when you run the government like a business? Public utilities collapse and the country falls to a Third World status, as can be seen with the recent water disaster in Flint, MI.
It’s pretty clear that the Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Gov. Snyder’s office knew about the lead in the water — but emails received via an FOIA request suggest state officials knew months ahead of time about the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint water, but did nothing about it.
“This is the second issue I mentioned earlier today,” one of the FOIA’d emails begins, “In December, our staff became peripherally aware that hospitals in Genesee were seeing an uptick in in Legionnaires cases.”
The email was sent on Friday, March 13, 2015 at 6:49 PM.
It wasn’t until last month, January of 2016, the public was alerted to the existence of the deadly disease, despite people at the state level knowing last winter. And there apparently isn’t any legal requirement to warn the public about a disease that’s not spread person-to-person.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by water vapor getting into the lungs — you can drink water with the bacteria, according to the first email, and be fine. The water vapor must be inhaled, where the bacteria settles in the lungs and causes pneumonia.
The health officials in Genesee County, where Flint is the seat of, were attempting to get help from the state last January, and an employee at the Genesee County Health Department told the officials from the state that he felt there was a strong link between Legionnaires’ and the water of the Flint River.
The state called his claims “beyond irresponsible.” Now it looks as though he was right all along.
One of the individuals involved in the email loop was Havery Hollins, Snyder’s director of Urban Initiatives. Hollins received the emails in 2015, but Snyder claims that he only knew about the outbreak in 2016. The governor’s office even released a statement Thursday explaining that he wasn’t aware:
As the Governor has said repeatedly, and the record bears this out, he was not briefed on this issue until January 2016. He took action promptly and released the information publicly.
The emails from the Department of Environmental Quality claim the information is “premature and prejudice” and that attributing it to the river is “beyond irresponsible.”
Funny how he would be kept out of the loop, isn’t it? I’m reminded of Sergeant Hans Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes fame every time Snyder speaks about what happened in Flint: “I know nothing — nothing!”
But his office, on the other hand, apparently did, and neither of those are solace for the 10 dead people and the thousands of children affected by lead.
Feature image via USA Today