Gov. Snyder: Why I testified on Flint

Rick Snyder

I voluntarily testified before Congress about fixing the crisis in Flint and the actions the state is taking to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Local, state and federal officials all failed the families of Flint. I am truly sorry for this failure, and that’s why I am working so hard to make this right.

This shouldn’t be a political issue. It’s a tragedy affecting real families whose health and future are at stake. Not a day or night goes by that I don’t question what more I could have done to prevent this. That’s why I am so committed to delivering permanent, long-term solutions and the clean, safe drinking water that every Michigan citizen deserves.

This issue was brought to light by three heroes: professor Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center, and Flint resident LeeAnne Walters. They were among the first to sound the alarm about the failures of government and the crisis afflicting their community. Edwards and Hanna-Attisha have since become invaluable scientific counselors on what we must do to help the families of Flint.

Even after these heroes were sounding the alarm, the state Department of Environmental Quality repeatedly assured my office that Flint’s water was safe. When a water expert at the EPA tried to raise an alarm, he was silenced by federal officials. On Oct. 1, 2015, I learned that I should have been listening to Edwards, Hanna-Attisha and Walters instead of our state experts — Flint’s water had dangerous levels of lead.

I took immediate action. We quickly reconnected the city to the Detroit water supply, which is properly treated with corrosion control chemicals. I ordered the immediate distribution of water filters and extensive blood-level testing in schools and homes to identify those who needed immediate care so they could receive the healthcare, nutrition and additional support they need.

We’ve deployed nearly $67 million to address short-term health and long-term safety concerns. We are in the appropriations process for an additional $165 million to deliver permanent, long-term solutions. From identifying every pipe that must be replaced to long-term medical support, we are working with local leaders like Mayor Karen Weaver and our representatives in Congress to pass the bipartisan bill for aiding Flint immediately so we can further protect the health and safety of Flint families.

We also are holding those who failed accountable.

I released my emails and my staff’s emails relating to this water crisis. And we are in the process of publicly releasing additional relevant documents from the state agencies involved. People will be able to do their own honest assessment of what happened and what we’re doing to fix it.

We also began an immediate investigation of what went wrong. We found systemic failures at the DEQ. Bureaucrats created a culture that valued technical compliance over common sense while lead was leaching into residents’ water.

Key staff has been replaced. I am committed to a complete and comprehensive change at DEQ. I also called for a thorough investigation of the state Department of Health and Human Services by the auditor general. Bureaucratic silos and systems that sweep potential problems aside will not stand.

I was elected twice to solve problems for the people of Michigan. I’ve been humbled by this experience and I understand the anger. But I am not walking away from this problem. I am going to fix this. And I am going to make Flint and every community in Michigan a better place to live.

People deserve the peace of mind knowing the leaders they entrusted to protect their health and safety put the people’s interests ahead of their own. That is why we must all act to deliver the permanent, long-term solutions that every Michiganian and every American deserves.

Rick Snyder is the 48th governor of Michigan.