LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's statement that he wasn't aware of a problem with lead in Flint's drinking water until about Oct. 1 has prompted new questions about the role of his office in quietly delivering 1,500 water filters to the city in August.
Snyder's statement this week also raised questions about the speed and scope of the state's response since Oct. 1 and why state officials did not immediately instruct Flint residents not to drink the water without a filter. A 10-point plan for Flint water that Snyder released on Oct. 2 said the state was making water filters and water testing available to Flint residents, but did not include a warning.
On Tuesday — more than three months later — the Michigan State Police and other state officials had just begun delivering bottled water and water filters door-to-door in Flint. Late Tuesday, Snyder also activated the National Guard to help distribute bottled water and filters.
The drinking water became contaminated after Flint, while under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, switched from Lake Huron drinking water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Company to Flint River water treated by a city plant.
Shortly after officials switched the water source in April 2014 to save money, residents started complaining that their tap water looked strange, tasted bad and caused rashes. But not until the fall of 2015, when the water was found to have elevated levels of lead, did state officials take action.
Now they are scrambling to address a situation that has endangered the health of Flint's children and generated untold costs and anxiety.
The state Department of Environmental Quality has acknowledged that it failed to require Flint to add needed corrosion control chemicals to the water, causing lead to leach into the drinking water from pipes and fixtures.
The Rev. Allen Overton of the Coalition for Clean Water in Flint, who had pushed for state action, said Tuesday that he "can't say [Snyder] was telling the truth or he was lying" about not knowing about the problem until Oct. 1.
"The governor has a lot of culpability in this entire problem," he said. "I think he knew."