Buried at the bottom of today’s stories in the Detroit News and the Free Press on who knew what, when, and what they did about the Flint water crisis as it was developing was this revelation:
Gov. Rick Snyder’s environmental policy advisor, Valerie Brader, purposefully kept the state Department of Environmental Quality out of an email discussion in which she and other top aides to the governor were expressing deep misgivings and anxiety about the state of Flint’s water more than a year before any public acknowledgment of the crisis.
Why? To specifically prevent the truth from coming out under state Freedom of Information laws.
Let that sink in for a minute.
On Oct. 14, 2014, after learning that the GM plant in Flint had decided to stop using city water because it was corroding and rusting newly manufactured engine parts, Brader sent an email to other top Snyder advisors in which she described Flint’s water quality problems as “an urgent matter to fix.”
And then she appended this:
P.S. Note: I have not copied DEQ on this message for FOIA reasons.
You see, DEQ is subject to FOIA, which means that had the agency been included in these email discussions, the public could potentially learn what was being said behind closed doors while their own concerns were being denigrated, dismissed, and ignored.
But in Michigan the governor and his administration are exempt from FOIA.
So while the public was being told that all was well with Flint’s water, in the background officials in a position to warn city residents about their own fears concerning the dangers of bathing in, cooking with, and drinking the city’s tainted water, intentionally kept residents in the dark.
For more than a year, officials at the highest levels of Michigan government kept their own misgivings about Flint’s water from reaching the people with the most at stake. The Free Press story sums it up this way:
By early 2015, higher lead levels were showing up in the water. The DEQ initially dismissed the reports, until September when a pediatrician showed that blood lead levels in Flint children spiked after the water switch. After months of telling residents the water was safe, state officials finally acknowledged they had applied the wrong standard to Flint when they supervised the switch — and did not do the necessary corrosion control.
But until this week, the public did not know about the early anxiety voiced by the governor’s top aides.
Part of the reason may have been because Brader did not include an agency subject open records laws.
Welcome to Michigan, where the citizens have no right to know their own government is poisoning them.