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    28 Feb 2016

    Flint water emails show Flint City Council never approved switch

    One of the most hotly debated questions about the Flint water crisis has been the one of who made the ill-fated decision to switch to the Flint River.
    Despite steady claims from the state that the decision was made by Flint officials, newly released emails show an aide to Gov. Rick Snyder disputed that notion just days before a damning op-ed by former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.
    "It is important to note that council did not take a vote to use Flint river (sic)," Harvey Hollins, Snyder's director of urban initiatives, wrote in an Oct. 7, 2015 email to Dan Wyant, former director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
    Days later, however, Earley penned an op-ed claiming Flint officials approved the switch to the Flint River as the city's drinking water source.
    The issue of who approved the switch has been a contentious one, with Flint officials saying they never voted to do it and state officials claiming the emergency manager, who was appointed by Snyder, was just following the will of the people when he signed off on the switch.
    Hollins' email stops short of saying who approved the switch, but said the decision to use the Flint River was made in April 2014 in order to stop paying Detroit for water service until the new Karegnondi Water Authority was online.
    Snyder's Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore and then-Communications Director Jarrod Agen, who has since replaced Muchmore as chief of staff, were copied on the email.
    Despite Hollins' information, Muchmore, less than two weeks later, signed off on Earley's editorial placing blame for the switch at the feet of Flint council members.
    "We think it is fine," Muchmore wrote. "Jarrod suggests strongly that you leave out the Ghandhi (sic) quote. We think it detracts from your overall message."
    The Detroit News eventually published Earley's editorial Oct. 26, 2015.
    "The decision to separate from Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and go with the KWA, which included the decision to pump Flint River water in the interim, were part of a long-term plan that was approved by Flint's mayor and confirmed by a City Council vote of 7-1 on March 25, 2013," Earley wrote.
    Council members voted 7-1 on March 25, 2013, to switch from Detroit water to the KWA, but never approved using the river as the interim water source for the city of Flint.
    The switch proved disastrous, setting off a chain of health problems including lead poisoning of some children who drank the water.
    A March 13, 2014, order signed by former Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose for a water main cut-in at the water plant cleared the way for the switch to the river, according to emails released previously by the state Treasury.
    A timeline created by the Snyder administration to coincide with the governor's January 2016 State of the State speech, says: "June 2013 — City of Flint decides to use the Flint River as a water source."
    The timeline remains on the governor's website and was last updated Jan. 10, 2016.
    However, Snyder's office denies that the timeline entry claims city officials approved the switch.
    "June 2013 is when the City of Flint's water treatment plant notified the DEQ it would begin treating water from the Flint River to use as a primary source," Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said. "That is the information used in the timeline."
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