It seems like every day there’s a new story that makes the tragic poisoning of tens of thousands of people in Flint, Michigan even worse. Now it’s been revealed that the emergency manager for the city appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder rejected the use of water from the Flint river because it was so polluted, but the Snyder administration overruled him and did it anyway under a new emergency manager.
Snyder appointed Ed Kurtz to be Flint’s second emergency manager and Kurtz selected Jerry Ambrose to be the city’s chief financial officer. Both men were tasked by the Republican governor’s administration with restructuring the city’s government to save money after it was in danger of becoming insolvent. One cost-saving measure considered was to quit buying municipal water from Detroit.
In a civil deposition not reported until now, Ambrose testified under oath that emergency manager Kurtz considered a proposal to use the Flint River, discussed the option with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and then rejected it.
In 2014, Ambrose was deposed in a civil lawsuit brought by retired Flint municipal workers against the state over severe cuts to their health care benefits. Attorney Alec Gibbs questioned Ambrose about the water decision (a year before Flint learned it was being poisoned).
“There was brief evaluation of whether the city would be better off to simply use the Flint River as its primary source of water over the long term,” Ambrose said. “That was determined not to be feasible.”
“Who determined it wasn’t feasible?” Gibbs asked.
“It was a collective decision of the emergency management team based on conversations with the MDEQ that indicated they would not be supportive of the use of the Flint River on a long-term basis as a primary source of water,” Ambrose answered…
How could the river that was rejected as Flint’s permanent water source in December 2012 suddenly become suitable for consumption a mere 16 months later?
And who actually made the disastrous choice to start using the previously rejected river as the city’s temporary water source?
Howard Croft, the former director of public works for Flint who resigned in November 2015, asserted more than four months ago in a videotaped interview with the ACLU of Michigan that the decision to use the dangerously corrosive river came directly from the Snyder administration.
In the interview, Croft said that the decision to use the river was a financial one, with a review that “went up through the state.”
“All the way to the governor’s office?” the ACLU of Michigan asked him.
“All the way to the governor’s office,” Croft replied.
When questioned about Croft’s accusation in October, Sara Wurfel, Snyder’s spokeswoman at the time, offered up the false claim that the governor could not have made the decision to use the river because the city had been kicked off of Detroit’s system.
“The Detroit Water and Sewer Department at the time, back last spring, said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna cut you off.’”
This is a lie.
Indeed it is. They tried to negotiate a new arrangement to continue using Detroit city water for three years until the pipeline carrying water from Lake Huron was operational, but the Snyder administration didn’t want to do that because it would have been more expensive. And money was obviously more important than actual people, especially poor black people.