Michigan gov blames Flint water crisis on environmental workers

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) laid the blame for the Flint drinking water crisis on employees at the state’s environmental agency.

Speaking Friday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Snyder said experts at the Department of Environmental Quality had the qualifications to sound alarms about lead in drinking water long ago, but didn’t take the right steps.

“The department people, the heads, were not being given the right information by the quote-unquote experts,” Snyder told host Joe Scarborough.

“And I use that word with great trial and tribulation because they were considered experts in terms of their background, these are career civil servants that had strong science, medical backgrounds in terms of their research,” he said. “But as a practical matter, when you look at it today and you look at their conclusions, I wouldn’t call them experts anymore.”

Snyder has been under fire both for approving the decision to get Flint’s water from a river in April 2014 and because the state repeatedly downplayed pollution concerns until October 2015.

Snyder has largely accepted responsibility and apologized, but he tried Friday to spread blame around.

“This is something that we don’t consider just what one person did, let’s look at the entire cultural background of how people have been operating,” he said. “Let’s get in there and rebuild the culture that understands common sense has to be part of it, taking care of our citizens has to be part of it.”

Snyder also denied that racism played any role in the crisis; Flint’s population is mostly black.

“Absolutely not,” Snyder said when asked if racism was a factor. “Flint is a place I’ve been devoted to helping … we’ve done a lot in terms of programs there to help the structurally unemployed go get work, in terms of public safety we’ve done a lot.”

On Thursday, Susan Hedman, the Environmental Protection Agency regional chief responsible for Michigan, resigned effective Feb. 1 for her role in the crisis. She knew early last year that a lead crisis could happen but did not take action beyond notifying the state.

Dan Wyant, head of the state environmental agency, resigned in December under pressure.