Flint Water OK’d Over Official Warning

Flint’s water switch was approved over the objections of Michigan health officials, according to emails released by the governor’s office on Friday. Stephen Busch, an official with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s drinking water division, said in a 2013 email that switching to river water would increase the chances of exposure to microbes and also cancer-causing disinfectant chemicals used to combat them. Busch, who is now suspended, raised his concerns to then-DEQ Director Dan Wyant, who resigned in December 2015. Busch also forwarded his findings to Michigan’s Department of Treasury, which nonetheless gave the water switch project the go-ahead, allowing Flint to switch its water supply in April 2014. The river water has caused elevated levels of lead in its consumers and is the prime suspect in the outbreak of Legionnaire’s which killed nine people.

The emails also revealed that the Flint water plant was rushed into operation despite the concerns of a city official. “I do not anticipate giving the OK to begin sending water out any time soon,” Mike Glasgow, the city’s laboratory and water quality supervisor, wrote in an April 17, 2014 e-mail to a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official. “If water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction. I need time to adequately train additional staff and to update our monitoring plans before I will feel we are ready.” Flint nonetheless began using the tainted river water on April 25, 2014.