In an effort to shed more light on the how the Flint water crisis developed, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder released more than 270 pages of emails from 2014 and 2015. ABC News reports safety concerns surfaced when the state’s Department of Environmental Quality learned of elevated blood levels in children’s blood on Aug. 23, 2015. The emails show that Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards notified the department of the finding and said the school would be studying the water quality “over the next few months”.
In 2014, Flint switched its water source from Lake Huron to Flint River water. Residents complained of their tap water shortly afterwards, stating that it looked dirty, tasted bad and led to rashes, according to the New York Times. However, officials did not take any action until researchers found elevated blood lead levels in children the following year. The state identified 43 people with elevated blood lead levels as of December 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no safe level of lead in children, who may experience developmental problems following lead exposure.
Flint switched its water source back to Lake Huron in October. Gov. Snyder, who helped oversee the switch back, has apologized to residents for the situation and declared a state of emergency. “We need to make sure this never happens again in any Michigan city,” he stated.
Edwards’ findings showed that elevated blood levels were linked to corrosion in the city’s water system. The DEQ argued these findings, ABC News reports. Director of Urban Initiatives Harvey Hollins told Snyder in a Sept. 5 email that there was a “demand for more” water filters after 1,500 were distributed to households. Snyder’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, accused Flint officials of turning the water crisis into a political situation. “The DEQ and DCH feel that some in Flint are taking the very sensitive issue of children’s exposure to lead and trying to turn it into a political football claiming the departments are underestimating the impacts on the populations and particularly trying to shift responsibility to the state,” Muchmore wrote.