Questions arise MDEQ email release

Posted at 8:46 AM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 08:46:24-05

An email from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to a top adviser in Governor Snyder's office calls his attention to the uptick in cases of Legionnaires' disease in Flint.

MDEQ Spokesman Brad Wurfel says there are more cases of Legionnaires' in one year than in the last five years or more combined. He attaches emails that show an exchange between the MDEQ and the Genesee County Health Department. The Department requested information on the DEQ's water testing as part of its investigation into the Legionnaires' outbreak, saying, "The increase of the illnesses closely corresponds with the timeframe of the switch to Flint River water."

The DEQ responds by saying it's unlikely the treated water would harbor the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' and linking the outbreak to the Flint River water "appears premature and prejudice."

But this email and information made it to the Governor's adviser Harvey Hollins in March. That's 10 months before the Governor says he was briefed on the issue in January.

His office released a statement saying the issue wasn't brought to the Governor because the DEQ failed to get the facts to determine in the concerns were credible.

"The issue was not brought to the Governor's attention until January of this year," the statement said. "Gov. Snyder has made changes at the department to address these concerns and change the culture to best protect the well-being of Michiganders."

Wurfel and agency Director Dan Wyant both resigned in December. Several others in the department were fired.

Hugh Madden of Progress Michigan says this email makes it clear the public needs more information.

"We still don't know what the Governor knew, when he knew it and I think this email chain brings up a question, if he didn't know it, why not, and what is it about the governing culture that would allow a top adviser to not share information about an uptick in Legionnaires' with the Governor?" he said.

Progress Michigan and other organizations are calling for the Governor to release all of his office's emails about the Flint Water Crisis.