Michigan governor's aides urged switch away from Flint River: reports

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 26, 2016 8:32 AM

DETROIT (Reuters) - Quality problems prompted two of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's top lawyers to urge that the city of Flint be moved back to the Detroit water system just months after a decision to draw water supply from the Flint River, Detroit newspapers reported Friday.

Flint switched its water supply from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014 in a bid to cut costs when the city was under a state-appointed emergency manager.

While the city switched its water source back to Detroit in October 2015, the more corrosive water from the river had already leached lead from city pipes, causing a serious public health threat.

The governor's top aides discussed Flint's water quality problems as early as the fall of 2014, about a year before the switch back to the Detroit system was finally made, the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News reported, citing emails released by the governor's office.

A spokeswoman for the governor's office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Snyder, who is scheduled to testify at a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing about the Flint crisis on March 17, has repeatedly apologized for the state's poor handling of the crisis.

Valerie Brader, deputy legal counsel and senior policy adviser to Snyder, addressed problems over the quality of Flint River water in an email to the governor's Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore and other top aides on Oct. 14, 2014, the Free Press reported.

She argued that Flint should be returned to the Detroit water system, citing bacterial contamination and reduced quality that prompted General Motors Co to switch its supply away from the river due to rusted parts, the paper said.

Michael Godola, then the governor's legal counsel, responded and echoed her concerns, calling the use of Flint River as a drinking water source "downright scary," the paper said.

Muchmore, who now works for a law firm, told the paper that cost was a major impediment in discussions over whether to return to the Detroit water system and those concerns were discussed with Snyder.

Liberal group Progress Michigan again called for Snyder to resign, citing the emails.

“There's no reasonable person who can believe at this point that every top advisor to Rick Snyder knew that there was an issue, but Snyder knew nothing," Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said in a statement. "He's clearly unfit to lead our state and he should resign immediately."

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Bernadette Baum)