Responsibility for Flint water crisis


The writer of a July 25, 2019, letter to the editor, “Cut ties with Mr. Heller,” wrote, “So somebody in Flint decided it would be a good idea to save the city of Flint some money and switch where the city’s water came from.”

The writer was in error. The person who decided to change the Flint water source was not from Flint. He was part of Governor Snyder’s administration.

The seeds of the Flint water crisis were sown in 2011 with the passage of Governor Snyder’s emergency manager law. Before 2011 there was a financial manager law that included local government participation and input. Governor Snyder’s new law was designed to circumvent local government. It said that if the state treasurer, who was appointed by the governor, deemed it necessary, an emergency manager would be appointed by the governor and would replace a city’s governing body and city manager. MCL 141.1549(2). The law stated the emergency manager served at the pleasure of the governor. MCL 141.1549(3)(d).

Michigan citizens objected to the Governor Snyder’s 2011 emergency manager law. They collected signatures to place repeal of Governor Snyder’s emergency manager law on the 2012 fall ballot. Voters soundly defeated the emergency manager law. Delta County voted 2 to 1 to repeal the emergency manager law.

Late at night, in its last week of its 2012 legislative session, one month after voters repealed Gov. Snyder’s law, the legislature passed the same emergency manager law that voters rejected in November.

In 2011, with a stroke of his pen, Governor Snyder transferred the authority from Flint’s city commission and city manager to the governors appointed emergency manager. In 2014, Governor Snyder’s manager chose to switch city water from a Lake Huron source to Flint River water. Flint River water was pumped into homes, rashes appeared on children, the water was brown and smelled, E. coli was discovered, Legionnaire’s disease flourished, and metal in a GM plant corroded.

Before the switch the governor’s office ignored warnings not to disconnect from the water system Flint had been using. Flint’s water plant had been closed for a long time and officials in the area doubted whether water plant employees had sufficient knowledge to provide clean water to the city. Those officials urged Governor Snyder and the emergency manager not to change Flint’s water. www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/02/04/ficano-flint-water/79662558/. The Flint water quality supervisor sent an email to state officials that workers needed more training and that using the Flint water plant was against his direction. His warnings were ignored.


Under the emergency manager law the people of Flint had no voice. Governor Snyder’s manager, serving at Governor Snyder’s pleasure, was the city government. That makes former Governor Snyder responsible for the decision to change the source of Flint’s water and the resulting crisis

Richard Clark