As an environmental expert working with the city of Flint, Michigan, detailed just how sprawling its lead contamination problem is during a news conference Monday, the state’s embattled governor promised to release more internal emails about the city’s water crisis.
“You’re talking thousands and thousands of emails, so I want to make sure they do it carefully and thoughtfully,” Gov. Rick Snyder told the Detroit News editorial board.
Snyder’s office began releasing thousands of messages in January, some of which proved damning.
In one of the emails, dated Sept. 25, 2015, his then-chief of staff told the governor 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."
The crisis began in Flint after a Snyder-appointed fiscal manager switched the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The new source wasn't properly treated and corroded pipes and fixtures, which leaked lead and began appearing in dangerously high levels in children’s blood — a condition that can cause irreversible brain damage.
Snyder released additional emails earlier this month, but amid criticism from lawmakers that this cache only dated to 2014, the governor told the Detroit News that the next round will reach back five years.
Meanwhile, in Flint, Martin Kaufman, chairman of the Earth and Resource Science department at the University of Michigan-Flint, told reporters Monday that researchers found that out of 56,000 homes and businesses in the city, 8,000 were connected to lead pipes.
Kaufman, who began working with Flint last month, added that “there is no record of the types of pipes” used for an additional 11,000 homes.
The revelation comes one week after Flint Mayor Karen Weaver announced that she intended to begin overhauling the city’s corroded pipes as soon as possible — and as she rejected a plan from Snyder to determine if any of the city’s damaged water system can be saved with a special coating.
During the news conference Monday, Weaver estimated the removal cost at $55 million. The state House approved a measure last week that would send $30 million to Flint, and Snyder pledged an additional $2 million. Weaver said it was unclear where the remaining funding would come from.
“I’m looking for some more money to come,” she said, adding: “We can’t wait, so we're going to go ahead and get started.”
During the news conference Weaver vowed to be vigilant about the ongoing crisis.
"I won't rest until every service line is removed," she said. "And the people of Flint deserve no less."