Clean water sent to Flint state workers before crisis was acknowledged

Clean water was being sent to some state of Michigan workers several months before the state even admitted there was a problem, according to newly released government e-mails by Progress Michigan.

The watchdog group obtained emails that showed while the state was telling Flint residents it was safe to drink the brown, smelly water they complained about for months, the Snyder administration trucked in coolers of clean water for workers at the state office building in Flint. Lonnie Scott, the executive director of the watchdog group Progress Michigan, obtained the series of emails.

"It shows what we've assumed all along," said Lonnie Scott, director of Progress Michigan. "There is no way the governor's administration didn't know earlier there was real issues with the water."

That was in January of 2015, just weeks after General Motors engine plant stopped using Flint water because it was corroding the car parts.

"They had to be acknowledging there was some real issue with the water in that building in Flint," said Scott. "And that is a full 10 months before the governor claims they knew there was an issue and took action."

The city made the switch to the Flint River in April of 2014. It was then the lack of corrosion controls caused lead to leach from the pipes.

Residents noticed the changes right away.

In that same facility, notification sent months later on Jan. 7, 2015 from the Department of Technology, Management and Budget - it acknowledges the violations to the drinking water standards.

It even cited the elevated levels of the cancer causing trihalomethanes known as TTHM -- the email says the city of Flint wasn't taking corrective actions.

But it appears the state wasn't taking any chances,  providing a water cooler on each floor near the water fountain of that state building - so employees could choose what water to drink.  In the meantime Flint residents didn't get a choice.

"They are telling us 15 years before it's fixed," said Bernadette McDonald. "It is kind of sad. Our kids are affected. It is sad, it is the future of our city."

"I feel like we should have been (told) as soon as they were drinking clean water," said Dierion Wood, Flint resident. "Why can't we be drinking clean water too."

In a response Dave Murray from the governor's office says the state issued a $2 million grant to help the water system infrastructure, which he claims at that point they believed was the problem.

But as we all know now, it was not.

"It just shows that the reaction was to take care of the state workers while they were still telling Flint residents your water is safe, go ahead and drink it," Scott said.

FOX 2 also got a response from the manager of the Flint state office building. He acknowledged the notice and just said the water coolers were put by the drinking fountains to "provide an option" for the state workers.

Murray said that at the time they did not know what was causing the problem. Snyder has apologized and blamed it on a series of missteps but it is clear from the emails that somebody knew something.

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