A New Investigation Confirms Your Worst Suspicions About Michigan Leaders and the Flint Water Crisis

And concludes that the Snyder administration is largely to blame.


In the aftermath of the water crisis in Flint, many have asked why—despite numerous reports of tainted, foul-smelling water from residents—lead-contaminated water flowed through the city’s pipes for 18 months. The response has been largely a deflection in blame: Local officials say they were following state orders; the Environmental Protection Agency has skirted questions about its responsibility for the crisis; Gov. Rick Snyder maintains that he didn’t know about the lead contamination until the fall of last year. A new investigation from Michigan news outlet MLive, based on thousands of emails and other documents released by the state, concludes that the blame lies largely at the feet of the Snyder administration:

[T]he water crisis was an unintended consequence of the state’s takeover of Flint in 2011, after which a series of four emergency managers were given near-dictatorial powers so they could cut the city’s budget and bring the books in line. Among the cost-saving measures: Change the city’s water supply and do it on the cheap. Snyder was aware by fall 2014 that using the Flint River for the city’s water was causing serious water-quality issues. But, for the next 12 months, he and his administration saw fixing Flint’s finances as the higher priority.

Check out the MLive video above, which lays out a timeline of internal communications between state authorities from the fall of 2014 to the beginning of this year—and sheds light on how this slow-moving disaster came to be.