Snyder’s office was besieged by complaints just months after Flint water switch
On July 12, 2022, Dennis Muchmore testified in court. Muchmore served as Chief of Staff to Governor Snyder prior to and during the Flint Water Crisis. As Chief of Staff, he communicated with Snyder directly regarding Flint’s water issues and informed him of the various water quality concerns as they arose, including the likelihood that the City’s water contained lead.
Muchmore described the Governor’s Office as besieged by complaints from Flint citizens, public health officials and activists within months following the switch in water source. He testified that immediately following the switch in water sources, residents began showing up to the Governor’s office with jugs of dirty and discolored water and demanding answers.
Muchmore said that the problems were constant: “Every time we turned around there was some problem and a response and some problem and another response and some other problem.” Yet despite all of the public furor, Governor Snyder refused to direct the Emergency Managers to take action or demand a return to Detroit Water. Muchmore admitted to Michigan Health Director Nick Lyon that people were “basically being blown off by us.”
Here’s what you need to know.
Governor Snyder and his executive team had the authority to intervene in Flint’s decision-making by virtue of having placed the City under Emergency Management.
- As Governor, Rick Snyder appointed four Emergency Managers to run the City of Flint whose authority superseded that of local officials, stripping power away from the people and concentrating it tightly within the executive branch.
- Each Emergency Manager appointed by Governor Snyder in Flint was driven by financial concerns over the health and safety of the people who lived there.
- Governor Snyder also oversaw the various State government agencies that were involved in the water crisis, such as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), and the Department of the Treasury.
- Muchmore confirmed it was in the Governor’s purview to demand more information from these agencies or investigate whether they were adequately performing their obligations.
Governor Snyder was aware that the Flint Water Treatment Plant was not ready to safely treat and distribute water from the Flint River but failed to intervene.
- Muchmore testified that, prior to the switch, Governor Snyder was made aware that the expedited timeline to operate the FWTP full time could lead to several potential disasters.
- Almost immediately after the switch, these concerns were validated when citizens began to complain about the taste, smell, and color of their drinking water.
- Muchmore testified that the Governor’s Office was aware of the various red flags and water quality violations over the course of the crisis, including the Boil Water Advisories issued in October 2014, the TTHM violations in early 2015 and the evidence of elevated lead levels in July 2015.
For nearly a year and a half as the crisis unfolded, the MDEQ repeatedly insisted that the water was safe and that corrosion control treatment was not necessary, despite growing evidence that the water was corrosive and lead was becoming a problem.
- Muchmore testified that former MDEQ spokesperson Brad Wurfel said the residents of Flint did not need to worry about lead in their water and that the sampling conducted by the City did not indicate an imminent health threat from lead or copper.
- When presented with Marc Edward’s data showing high lead levels in portable Flint water, Mr. Wurfel said the information was “pretty irresponsible” because it did not match with the MDEQ’s claims at the time that the water and sampling criteria were fine.
- MDEQ Director Dan Wyant later admitted that the Agency made a mistake with their sampling protocol and optimized corrosion control should have been required from the beginning.
Despite the mounting evidence of problems with Flint’s water, Governor Snyder refused to intervene to facilitate a reconnection to DWSD because it was cost prohibitive.
- Muchmore testified that members of the Governor’s own staff, including Senior Policy Advisor Valerie Brader, begged the Governor to ask the Emergency Managers to returning to the Detroit System in full or as an interim solution until the water quality issues could be addressed.
- Yet the Governor’s Office and the Treasury Department continued to say the cost of Detroit Water was too expensive for Flint and they had invested too much money into the KWA system to switch back.
- Governor Snyder did not take action to orchestrate or secure funding for Flint to reconnect to DWSD until September 2015, a year and a half after the water issues first surfaced in Flint.