Michigan gov's emails show finger-pointing over Flint water crisis

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Emails released this week by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) show that his office sought to keep the responsibility of cleaning up the water supply in Flint on local officials.

Snyder has been criticized for his reaction to the crisis of hazardous lead levels found in local drinking water after the city tapped the Flint River rather than using the Detroit municipal supply.

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State officials appear to have begun discussing the water problems in Flint in September, after residents began reporting health problems there. Officials in Snyder’s office initially said local authorities were responsible for the issue, and they worried about it becoming a political issue in the state.  

“I can't figure out why the state is responsible except that [then-treasurer Andy] Dillon did make the ultimate decision so we're not able to avoid the subject," Snyder's chief of staff Dennis Muchmore wrote to the governor in September, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday. 

The next morning, he wrote: “The real responsibility rests with the county, city and” the county water authority. "But since the issue here is the health of citizens and their children, we're taking a proactive approach."

Muchmore left Snyder's administration this week after announcing his retirement last year.

Snyder released 274 pages of emails this week as part of his pledge for transparency on the state’s thinking on the matter. Several of the emails were heavily redacted, including an entire message from Snyder’s legal counsel in 2014.

The emails show the governor’s office working to assess the situation in Flint last fall, including briefings from health officials on lead levels in the water and estimates on how much it would cost to replace the city's lead pipes. 

The release wasn’t enough for some Michiganders, including state House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D), who told the Free Press that there were too many redactions and that he was upset only emails to or from Snyder were included in the release 

“It’s very disappointing to see the governor play these types of games,” he said.