Image Credit: Erin Brokovich
As results of collaborative research with Flint residents exposed widespread problems with elevated levels of lead in Flint’s water, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) repeatedly attempted to discredit our findings and downplay the public health threat. For example, MDEQ’s Communications Director Brad Wurfel wrote to The Flint Journal’s Ronald Fonger:
“…the state DEQ is just as perplexed by Edwards’ results as he seems to be by the City’s test results. When I said we were unsure how the Virginia Tech team got its results, that’s not the same as being surprised that they got them. …this group specializes in looking for high lead problems. They pull that rabbit out of that hat everywhere they go. Nobody should be surprised when the rabbit comes out of the hat, even if they can’t figure out how it is done…..while the state appreciates academic participation in this discussion, offering broad, dire public health advice based on some quick testing could be seen as fanning political flames irresponsibly. Residents of Flint concerned about the health of their community don’t need more of that.”
Now that Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Hurley Medical Center researchers have revealed that the rising levels of lead in Flint water have been associated with increased blood lead of Flint’s children, our early health advice has been vindicated by most accounts. But MDEQ still dismisses the water controversy as “near-hysteria,” and characterizes the Hurley study conclusions as “unfortunate” if not quite “irresponsible.”
Given MDEQ’s insistence that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Flint water, we have created a timeline that illustrates how MDEQ’s mistakes and deception created the Flint Water Crisis in the first place. Our analysis relies on e-mails and documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by the American Civil Liberties Union-Michigan (ACLU of Michigan) and FlintWaterStudy.org.