Michigan Governor Snyder knew of Flint water woes, emails reveal

| Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, 8:42 p.m.

Emails between high-ranking Michigan state officials show they knew about an uptick in Legionnaires' disease and that it could be linked to problems with Flint water long before Gov. Rick Snyder said he received information on the outbreak.

A spokesman for Snyder rejected the report by the liberal group Progress Michigan on Thursday. Emails obtained by the group show Snyder's principal aide, Harvey Hollins, was made aware of the outbreak and a possible link to the use of Flint River water in March.

Snyder said in January that he had just learned about the rise in Legionnaires' cases.

“Are we to believe that a top staffer with years of experience would not inform Gov. Snyder of a possibly deadly situation?” Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott asked in a statement.

The group cited an email from March 13, 2015, that showed Hollins and Dan Wyant, the former head of the Department of Environmental Quality, were aware of the increase in Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County, where Flint is, and that a county health official was attributing the cases to the Flint River.

State officials on Jan. 13 announced the spike in the disease resulting in 10 deaths possibly linked to the water crisis.

In rejecting the group's claims, a spokesman for Snyder called the DEQ emails attributing the link to problems with Flint water “beyond irresponsible.”

Hollins asked the department to investigate, and if the concerns were credible, it was to tell Snyder, the spokesman wrote in an email.

“The issue was not brought to the governor's attention until January of this year,” he said.

Flint, a city near Detroit, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched the source of its tap water from Detroit's system to the Flint River in April 2014.

The city switched back in October after tests found high levels of lead in children's blood samples. The more corrosive water from the river leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did. Lead is a toxic agent that can damage the nervous system.

Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by inhaling mist infected with the Legionella bacteria.

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