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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's Aides Were Concerned About Flint's Water in 2014

In emails released today by the governor's office, a top Snyder aide warned in October 2014 that Flint's water quality was "downright scary."
Photo by Paul Sancya/AP

An aide to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder warned of "downright scary" Flint water … in 2014.

Top aides raised concerns about the water in the cash-strapped — and largely African-American — city of Flint long before its lead problem became a national embarrassment, their e-mails show.

Snyder's office began releasing thousands of pages of documents from his staff on Friday, promising that state residents "have a right to get answers to any questions they still have." And in October 2014, two of the governor's lawyers urged that Flint — then under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager — switch back to getting water from Lake Huron via Detroit's water system, according to highlights published in Detroit newspapers.


Deputy counsel Valerie Brader called it "an urgent matter to fix," since water from the Flint River was contaminated with bacteria and corrosive enough that General Motors wouldn't use it to clean machinery, the Detroit Free Press reported. And her boss, Michael Gadola, called the idea of using Flint River water "downright scary."

"My Mom is a City resident," wrote Gadola, who grew up in Flint. "Nice to know she's drinking water with elevated chlorine levels and fecal coliform." He recommended Flint switch back to Detroit's water system "before this thing gets too far out of control."

But it would be another year before the state stepped in to address the problems, after a Flint pediatrician documented high levels of lead poisoning among children there and a Virginia Tech water expert documented how improperly treated water from the river leached lead out of aging pipes in the long-depressed city. Brader told the Free Press that emergency manager Darnell Earley assured them the problems were expected to dissipate.

Snyder, a two-term Republican elected on promises of conservative reform, has said he learned about the problem in October 2015 and immediately took action to get additional testing and water filters to Flint residents. In January, after the problems drew national attention, he declared a state of emergency, with state police and National Guard troops distributing bottled water to the residents.

The crisis has led to calls for his resignation — even his arrest. In his statement Friday, he said the crisis "is the result of failures at all levels of government – city, state, and federal." But he told reporters at an appearance in Flint, "I'm kicking myself every day."

"This is something that we clearly could have done better on," he said. "There were various flags, but all the dots weren't connected the way I wish they were."

Related: [The Michigan Officials Responsible for Flint's Water Crisis Could Face Manslaughter Charges](http://The Michigan Officials Responsible for Flint's Water Crisis Could Face Manslaughter Charges)

Follow Matt Smith on Twitter: @mattsmithatl