Gov to exit of­fice with re­grets over Flint cri­sis

The Detroit News - - News - BY MELISSA NANN BURKE Detroit News Wash­ing­ton Bureau

Re­flect­ing on his ten­ure, Michi­gan Gov. Rick Sny­der said he’ll “al­ways have is­sues” with the lead con­tam­i­na­tion of Flint’s wa­ter and how the mat­ter was han­dled by the “so-called” wa­ter ex­perts who worked for him.

“I’ll al­ways have is­sues with Flint be­cause it was a ter­ri­ble thing to have hap­pen,” Sny­der told The Detroit News edi­to­rial board Fri­day.

“We had fail­ures at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment, but some of the peo­ple in­volved — par­tic­u­larly the so-called ex­perts in wa­ter — made some bad calls in my view, and they worked for me. I did what I al­ways think you should do and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that, so that’s some­thing that I won’t for­get.”

Sny­der, a Repub­li­can, said his ad­min­is­tra­tion tried to turn the Flint wa­ter cri­sis into a “learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence” by adopt­ing the coun­try’s strictest stan­dards for lead and cop­per in drink­ing wa­ter.

Through the ad­min­is­tra­tive rules process, Sny­der is low­er­ing Michi­gan’s thresh­old for ac­tion on lead in wa­ter to 10 parts per bil­lion by 2020, down from the cur­rent state and fed­eral law re­quir­ing ac­tion if lead lev­els ex­ceed 15 parts per bil­lion in 90th per­centile test­ing.

Sny­der noted the fed­eral gov­ern­ment still has not up­dated its decades­old rules.

“Our na­tional gov­ern­ment is still neg­li­gent or delin­quent in do­ing the right things for the rules for safe wa­ter,” Sny­der said.

In re­sponse to ques­tions, Sny­der said he has “no wor­ries” about in­com­ing Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Dana Nes­sel suggest­ing she might re-ex­am­ine the Flint probe by Repub­li­can At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bill Schuette’s spe­cial prose­cu­tor af­ter Schuette leaves of­fice next year.

“I hope peo­ple do look at it be­cause, again, as I look at some of these peo­ple that are cur­rently be­ing charged, I don’t

fully un­der­stand Sny­der said.

“Again, it’s pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion so I can’t say much about it, but I don’t know why they’re fac­ing some of those charges.”

Schuette’s spe­cial prose­cu­tor has charged two Sny­der health of­fi­cials with in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter and other crimes, in­clud­ing State Chief Med­i­cal Ex­ec­u­tive Eden Wells, whom a judge bound over for trial Fri­day morn­ing.

Two state-ap­pointed emer­gency man­agers also have been crim­i­nally charged, as have four cur­rent and for­mer Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity of­fi­cials.

Congress might also be re­open­ing its Flint in­ves­ti­ga­tion, with the in­com­ing Demo­cratic chair of the House Over­sight com­mit­tee telling The Detroit News he’s likely to bring Sny­der back to Wash­ing­ton.

“I’m not done with Flint,” U.S. Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings of Mary­land said last week.

Asked if he would go if called, Sny­der said, “I don’t know for what.”

“We co­op­er­ated. I tes­ti­fied. We sent all the in­for­ma­tion. I’m some­what con­fused be­cause I don’t know what the ques­tion is



is­sues,” that hasn’t al­ready been an­swered,” Sny­der added.

Sny­der tes­ti­fied be­fore the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee in March 2016, where Cum­mings and other Democrats called for his res­ig­na­tion.

Cum­mings later raised ques­tions over whether Sny­der had lied in his tes­ti­mony about when he be­came aware of con­cerns re­lat­ing to Flint’s out­break of Le­gion­naires’ dis­ease, a deadly form of pneu­mo­nia that killed 12 peo­ple and sick­ened dozens of oth­ers in Ge­ne­see County in 2014-15.

The mat­ter came up af­ter Sny­der’s ur­ban af­fairs ad­viser, Har­vey Hollins, tes­ti­fied that he in­formed the gover­nor about the Le­gion­naires’ out­break in De­cem­ber 2015.

Sny­der has stuck by his tes­ti­mony that he first learned about the Le­gion­naires’ con­cerns in Jan­uary 2016.

Cum­mings had pressed the Repub­li­can com­mit­tee chair­man to is­sue a sub­poena de­mand­ing Sny­der com­ply fully with bi­par­ti­san re­quests for doc­u­ments about the de­ci­sion to switch the source of Flint’s drink­ing wa­ter.

A spokes­woman for com­mit­tee Democrats said Fri­day they still ex­pect Sny­der to pro­vide those doc­u­ments.

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