Agency criticized over Flint water drops marketing plan

Associated Press

Lansing — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which has faced criticism for its handling of Flint’s problems with lead in drinking water, has shelved a proposal to spend up to $100,000 to develop its brand.

The Flint Journal reported that a request for proposals was issued Oct. 23. The newspaper sought details on Tuesday morning and was told by the department that it had pulled the bid and put the proposal on hold.

The request for proposals came several days after DEQ Director Dan Wyant acknowledged federal rules weren’t followed properly in Flint when the city last year made the switch to the Flint River for its water supply. Flint has reconnected to Detroit’s water system in hopes of resolving the health emergency.

Department spokesman Brad Wurfel said the marketing strategy was discussed for more than a year and isn’t related to recent developments in Flint. He said the DEQ recognizes “that with the broader budget conversations underway, this is not the time to prioritize this project.”

He said the request for proposals aligns with “the department’s goal of continually improving its relationships with stakeholders and delivering the best customer service we can”

Flint, a city of about 99,000 people, switched from Detroit’s water system while under state emergency financial management. The Flint River was supposed to be an interim source until the city could join a new system getting water from Lake Huron that is scheduled to be completed next year. But residents complained about the taste, smell and appearance of water coming into their homes and businesses from the Flint River.

Officials long maintained that the water met safety standards. But corrosive water was drawing lead from aging pipes, and the state recently corroborated findings of elevated lead levels in children and disclosed higher lead amounts in three Flint schools. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP-led Legislature earlier this month approved $9.3 million in aid to address the crisis.

The DEQ had posted a request for marketing strategy proposals online, seeking a contractor to develop a DEQ brand, a communication plan, branding techniques and training for state workers. The deadline was listed as Nov. 4 and the anticipated start date for the contract was Jan. 2.