Judge orders bottled water delivered in Flint, Mich., in water crisis

Flint Water Tower

(This version of the Nov. 10 story, corrects the name to Natural Resources Defense Council in paragraph 3)

By David Bailey

(Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday ordered state and city officials to deliver bottled water directly to qualified residents in Flint, Michigan, where a water contamination crisis has made unfiltered tap water unsafe to drink since April 2014.

Officials must deliver four cases of bottled water a week immediately unless they can prove a water filter is installed and properly maintained at a home or if residents opt out of a filter or deliveries, U.S. District Judge David Lawson said.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by residents and advocacy groups Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

“Here the plaintiffs seek a stop-gap measure that provides ready access to safe drinking water,” Lawson said. “It is in the best interest of everyone to move people out of harms way before addressing the source of the harm.”

Flint, a predominantly black city of 100,000, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its water source in April 2014 to the Flint River from Lake Huron in a money-saving move. The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from city pipes and into the drinking water.

The city switched back in October 2015 after tests found high levels of lead in blood samples taken from children, but the water has not returned fully to normal. Flint has been replacing lead pipes running to homes, and state officials have said the water is safe to drink if properly filtered.

The crisis drew international attention and numerous lawsuits and led to calls by some critics for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to resign over the state’s response.

The groups’ lawsuit, filed in January, seeks replacement of lead service pipes. They later asked Lawson to order home water deliveries or faucet filter installations because transportation issues made it hard for some residents to get to water distribution centers.

The city and state argued that bottled water was widely available at government-run distribution points and ordering door-to-door deliveries could be financially crippling.

Lawson called the city and state efforts commendable, but said the plaintiffs offered credible anecdotal evidence the distribution network was in flux and not completely effective.

“The court correctly recognized that the government created this crisis, and it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that all people in Flint have access to safe drinking water,” NRDC attorney Dimple Chaudhary said.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Michigan prosecutor charges six in Flint water scandal

The top of the Flint Water Plant tower is seen in Flint, Michigan

(Reuters) – Six Michigan state employees were charged on Friday in connection with dangerous lead levels in the city of Flint’s drinking water, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The criminal charges were filed by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette against three employees apiece from the state’s health and environmental departments, the newspaper said.

The accusations mark the second round of charges related to the investigation into the Flint water crisis. Schuette was scheduled to hold a news conference on Friday about the charges.

Flint, with a population of about 100,000, was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014 when it switched its water source from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River to save money. The city switched back last October.

The river water was more corrosive than the Detroit system’s, and caused more lead to leach from its aging pipes. Lead can be toxic, and children are especially vulnerable. The crisis has prompted lawsuits by parents who say their children have shown dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

The Free Press identified those charged on Friday as  Department of Health and Human Services workers Nancy Peeler, Corinne Miller and Robert Scott, and Department of Environmental Quality employees Leanne Smith, Adam Rosenthal and Patrick Cook.

A spokeswoman for the Genesee County District Court confirmed the filing of six complaints but had no details.

Three state and local officials were criminally charged in April in connection with the investigation.

Flint utilities administrator Michael Glasgow subsequently agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of a deal that had him plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge while a more serious felony charge was dismissed.

Department of Environmental Quality officials Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby were charged with five and six counts, respectively, including misconduct in office, tampering with evidence and violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act. Both pleaded not guilty.

Schuette last month sued French water company Veolia Environnement SA and Houston-based engineering services firm Lockwood, Andrews Newnam for “botching” their roles in the city’s drinking water crisis.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Flint, Michigan county has first case of Legionnaires disease

(Reuters) – The home county to Flint, Michigan, where residents were exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water, had its first case reported this year of Legionnaires’ disease, a respiratory infection that has been linked to the crisis, health officials said on Wednesday.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said it was investigating the case in Genesee County and where the older adult resident, who has been hospitalized, may have been exposed.

“At this time, there is no indication that the individual was exposed within the city of Flint,” the agency said in a statement.

At least 12 people have died in Flint due to Legionnaires’ disease in cases that may be related to the lead-contaminated drinking water crisis, caused when Flint switched its tap water source to the Flint River in April of 2014 to save money. Flint switched back to the Detroit water system last October.

The outbreak in Genesee County began in 2014 after Flint stopped using Detroit’s water system, which caused the crisis because the more corrosive water from the river leached lead from city pipes.

Legionnaires’ is a type of pneumonia caused by inhaling mist infected with the bacteria Legionella and can lead to respiratory failure, kidney failure and septic shock. The mist may come from air conditioning units for large buildings, hot tubs or showers.

State auditors are investigating the state Health and Human Services department over its handling of the crisis and the rise in Legionnaires’ disease cases.

Documents released in February show state officials knew about the Legionnaires’ outbreak and suspected its link to the water crisis in Flint at least 10 months before a public announcement was made.

It was unclear how the water supply switch may have caused proliferation of the Legionella bacteria, but officials said in emails that efforts to combat contaminants by flushing the water system and using different treatment methods might have inadvertently promoted the bacteria.

(Refiles to fix typographical error in name of disease in headline)

(Reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio)

EPA says filtered Flint, Michigan drinking water safe to drink

Flint Michigan Water Tower

DETROIT (Reuters) – Federal officials said on Thursday it is safe for anyone to drink properly filtered water in Flint, Michigan, where a public health crisis erupted after residents were exposed to dangerously high levels of lead.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a statement that the most recent testing at nearly 50 locations in the city showed lead levels far below the levels considered dangerous.

But the city’s mayor said some homes in Flint cannot be fitted with filters, so bottled water is still needed.

Flint, with a population of about 100,000, was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014 when it switched its water source from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River to save money. The city switched back in October.

The river water was more corrosive than the Detroit system’s and caused more lead to leach from aging pipes. Lead can be toxic, and children are especially vulnerable. The crisis has prompted lawsuits by parents who say their children have shown dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.

The EPA, which worked in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the testing, said properly filtered water is safe even for pregnant and nursing women, and children, groups more susceptible to the effects of lead poisoning.

“Residents can be confident that they can use filtered water and protect their developing fetus or young child from lead,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dr. Nicole Lurie said in a statement. Lurie has led federal support efforts for the Flint crisis.

The EPA said the filters distributed by the state of Michigan effectively remove lead or reduce it to levels well below the level of 15 parts per billion at which federal officials say action is needed. In the testing, nearly all filtered water tested below 1 part per billion. In January, water samples tested above 150 parts per billion.

The state began offering free water filters in Flint in January.

“This good news shows the progress we are making with overall water quality improving in Flint,” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder has been criticized for the state’s poor handling of the crisis.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver noted that some homes have faucets where the filters do not fit. “This is not the ultimate solution,” she said in a statement. “We still need new infrastructure, replacing the lead-tainted pipes in the city remains my top priority.”

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by David Gregorio)

U.S. Congress criticizes EPA, Michigan over Flint water crisis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A congressional panel on Tuesday criticized the Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan officials for failing to do more to sound the alarm about high levels of lead in the city of Flint’s drinking water.

“What happened in Flint can never happen again. It is almost unbelievable how many bad decisions were made,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“Government at every level – local, state and federal – made poor decisions.”

Flint, a predominantly African-American city of 100,000 about 60 miles northwest of Detroit, switched its water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in April 2014 to cut costs. The river’s corrosive water leached lead from city pipes, creating a public health threat marked by high lead levels in blood samples taken from children.

Lead is a toxic agent that can damage the nervous system.

The crisis has drawn national attention and led to calls for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to resign. It has also led to several lawsuits in state and federal courts, and federal and state investigations.

The water supply was switched back to the Detroit system last October.

At Tuesday’s hearing, a former regional EPA head, Susan Hedman, who resigned in February, was criticized by members of the committee for not acting sooner to use her powers as the regulator to better protect Flint residents. She defended herself, however.

“I don’t think anyone at the EPA did anything wrong, but I do believe we could have done more,” Hedman said. “I did not sit silent.”

Representative Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican, blasted Hedman as well. “I’m sorry, there’s a special place in hell for actions like this,” he said of the former EPA official’s tenure before the Flint crisis mushroomed into a national story.

Darnell Earley, a former state-appointed emergency manager in Flint, also was criticized for failing to ask enough questions about the safety protocols in place at the time of the city’s water-source switch.

Governor Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy are scheduled to testify before the same panel on Thursday.

Internal EPA memos and emails Chaffetz released about the crisis raised questions about the agency’s actions and the state’s incompetence.

“Lead lines + no treatment = high lead in water = lead poisoned children,” Miguel Del Toral, an EPA official critical of the agency, wrote in a Sept. 22, 2015, email to other agency officials. “At every stage of this process, it seems we spend more time trying to maintain state/local relationships than we do trying to protect the children.”

In July 2015, EPA official Jennifer Crooks said in a summary of an agency meeting on Flint that “it doesn’t make sense to discuss with the state what happened in the past … as the state sees the lead levels climbing, I don’t see the benefit in rubbing their nose in the fact that we’re right and they’re wrong.”

Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards, a water engineer who first raised the issue of Flint’s lead contamination, was critical of Hedman’s testimony.

“I can’t help but comment on the qualities that seem to be valued in administrators at the EPA: willful blindness, in this case to the pain and suffering of Flint residents; unremorseful for their role in causing this man-made disaster; and completely unrepentant,” he told the committee on Tuesday.

He said the EPA has never apologized for what happened in Flint. “I guess being a government agency means you never have to say you’re sorry,” Edwards said.

(Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Matthew Lewis)

The corrosive dangers lurking in America’s private wells

ORLEANS, N.Y. (Reuters) – In this town of 2,800 just south of the Canadian border, residents have long worried about the water flowing from their taps.

The water in one household is so corrosive it gutted three dishwashers and two washing machines. Another couple’s water is so salty the homeowners tape the taps when guests visit. Even the community’s welcome center warns travelers, “Do Not Drink The Water.”

So, when the water crisis in Flint, Michigan happened, Stephanie Weiss and husband Andy Greene feared that, as in Flint, their corrosive water was also unleashing lead into their tap water. Weiss scoured water-testing reports in Orleans and discovered the truth: Lead levels in her water – fed by a private well – exceed the threshold set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for public water systems and utilities.

The community’s experience is not unique. Across the country, millions of Americans served by private wells drink, bathe and cook with water containing potentially dangerous amounts of lead, Reuters reporting and recent university studies show.

Researchers from Penn State Extension and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, or Virginia Tech, tested private well systems in their states and found that 12 percent of wells in Pennsylvania and 19 percent in Virginia had lead levels exceeding the maximum EPA threshold for public water systems. Lead poisoning can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and brain damage. It is especially dangerous to children, as small amounts of exposure can cause irreversible developmental delays.

Though most Americans are served by public water utilities, private wells are the main source of drinking water for 15 percent of U.S. households, or 47.8 million people. Typically located in rural areas, private wells serve residents not connected to municipal water lines. Though many wells are found in impoverished communities, some serve wealthy homeowners and those living in urban environments.

Little research has examined the lead risk in private well water on a national scale. But if the researchers’ rate played out nationally, more than 9 million Americans served by private wells would have unsafe levels of lead in their water, according to a paper published in October by some of the same Virginia Tech researchers who found lead in Flint’s water.


Yet these private wells always fall outside EPA testing regulations, and only a few states require that wells be tested for lead. Unless residents pay for tests, they may not know what lurks in their water.

The community in Orleans, in Jefferson County dotting the northernmost tip of New York State, is one case study. Weiss and Greene found that the water they use to cook for their two children, ages eight and 10, measured lead levels more than double the EPA threshold, town records show.

“When I realized that my water had the equivalent of Flint levels of lead, I got chills,” said Weiss, assistant director of Save the River, an environmental advocacy organization. “I felt sick thinking of all the things I had tried to get right as a mother for my kids to grow up happy and healthy, when all the while they were living with lead contaminated water.”

“I was also angry thinking that the state government had likely caused this situation.”

The aquifer feeding their well is polluted with salt from a nearby barn used by the New York State Department of Transportation to store salt spread on roads during snowstorms, according to an analysis by Alpha Geoscience, a Clifton Park, New York, consulting firm that specializes in hydrogeologic studies. The study was commissioned by Stephen Conaway, a local winery owner who sued the state for allegedly polluting his water in 2011.

As far back as 2004, a DOT official told Conaway it was not unreasonable to assume the salt barn was the source of contamination, according to a letter sent to Conaway and reviewed by Reuters.

Flint is not served by private wells, but its battle to get the lead out of the water has triggered alarms in other communities – including those served by private wells, which can draw in corrosive water that leaches lead, copper and other heavy metals from well components, water pipes and plumbing fixtures.


The EPA has no standards for private wells, even as the National Ground Water Association recommends testing. Asked about the standards gap, an EPA spokesman said that the Safe Drinking Water Act, as written by Congress in 1974, makes the EPA responsible for regulating only public water systems.

Under the EPA Lead and Copper Rule, published in 1991, if 10 percent of samples taken by a water utility contain a lead level of 15 parts per billion or higher, the utility must improve corrosion control and inform the public of the lead risk. The utility may have to replace lead water lines.

The university researchers used this standard to assess potential harm in communities served by private wells.

Water from one Virginia home had lead levels 1,600 times the EPA maximum threshold, concluded Virginia Tech researcher Kelsey J. Pieper, lead author of a study published in the Journal of Water and Health last September that examined lead levels in tap water from houses in Virginia using wells. Pieper’s research, along with a 2013 Journal of Environmental Health study by Penn State Extension researchers, point to a problem governments have largely failed to address.

Lead exposures decreased after 1980s legislation banned lead in paint and gasoline. But private wells remain a potential source of exposure. If lead exposure from private wells is not addressed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be challenged to meet its goal of eliminating elevated levels of lead in children by 2020, Pieper found.

Pieper said many private wells across the country have clean water, but she recommends testing.

“Looking at lead concentration in Flint’s water and our results in private wells in Virginia, they were similar,” Pieper said. “One of the biggest differences is it’s solely the responsibility of the homeowner to identify and correct the problem for private water systems.”

To be sure, private homeowners are responsible for testing and maintaining their wells.

Yet many have no idea they should test for lead. Some who do test find troubling answers.


In central Pennsylvania, Jeremiah Underhill and his wife took their one-year-old son Dalton to the family doctor for his checkup in April 2014. Knowing the family was renovating their 76-year-old house, and concerned paint in the house may contain lead, their doctor suggested testing Dalton for lead.

The results showed elevated lead levels in his system.

“I was devastated,” said Jeremiah Underhill, an attorney in Harrisburg, whose family home is surrounded by 30 acres of corn and soybean fields.

The Underhills immediately began a battery of tests searching for the lead’s source. For years, public health experts have cited paint as the most dangerous source of poisoning for children, who may ingest paint chips and dust in older housing.

But it was a water sample, not paint, which tested positive for lead. The lead level in the water was at the maximum threshold set by the EPA, though Penn State analysts warned that the levels could fluctuate and may well exceed the maximum if tested more regularly. The Underhills found that, as in Flint, their well water was corrosive and leaching lead from plumbing in their house.

The family installed a treatment system to make the water less acidic. Their soda-ash injection system cost about $400, though if a family member had not helped install it, the cost would have been far higher. Today, their water has no lead and Dalton’s blood work is clear. The couple feels fortunate to have caught it early, knowing lead exposure can trigger brain damage.

“The only reason we caught this was because our doctor was smart enough to say, ‘Let’s test this,’” Underhill said. “I mean, it was the water we used to mix Dalton’s formula.”

Most children are never tested, and rules on testing children for lead exposure are inconsistent and often ignored across the country, Reuters found.

“Many physicians, wrongly, don’t believe that lead poisoning is still a problem,” said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, a toxicologist and pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. “They may not be seeing it because they are not testing for it. I think every kid should be tested.”


Many people believe if they have a new home or well, their plumbing does not contain lead. Yet virtually all plumbing before 2014 has some lead in its components, and older homes tend to have more leaded plumbing. Until January 2014, “lead free” meant the plumbing component contained less than 8 percent lead.

In Highlands, North Carolina, Robert and Suzanne Gregory discovered lead in their water after drilling a well for their home last August.

Macon County required they test the new well for bacteria. Robert, an engineer, wanted to know more and paid for an in-depth test that found the water corrosive and contaminated with lead. He believed the source was the galvanized steel pipe that ran down his well. The couple had the galvanized pipe, whose coating may have contained lead, replaced with lead-free stainless steel. They tested again and the lead was gone.

“The combination of acidic water and galvanized steel is a problem, and I think it’s bigger than most people understand because most people don’t even know they have galvanized,” Robert said.

Even if a homeowner conducts a lead test, the solutions can be too expensive for families with limited means. Some water treatment systems cost more than $10,000.

Only a few states, including New Jersey and Rhode Island, require wells be tested for lead – a test required when the property and well are transferred to a new owner. Though many states require tests for e coli and other bacteria, lead tests are seldom required, said John Hudson, vice president at Mortgage Financial Services in San Antonio, Texas.


Some residents know they have contaminated wells and want municipal water, but can’t get it.

In Orleans, New York, residents live in a region known for its boating, fishing and outdoor activities but also its doggedly high unemployment rate. The town began petitioning the state for municipal water four years ago. Since then, residents have made flyers and set up a Facebook page, but there’s still no plan in place for public water.

State officials say they aim to obtain $13 million to extend municipal water service to homes in Orleans with contaminated water, but Kevin Rarick, the Orleans town supervisor, calls the plan “smoke and mirrors.” Almost all of the money would come from a loan that would cost each water user $500 a year to pay off, and the state has not announced a plan to change the way it stores salt at the barn.

Homeowner Greene, whose family has had to replace salt-tainted appliances, views the equation as unfair: The state polluted the aquifer feeding his well, and now wants his community to bankroll the solution.

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation said the source of the salt is “inconclusive,” and that the salt has been stored safely. An official noted that the state has given residents bottled water.

“If I had a salt pile that leached salt into my neighbor’s well, the state would be here the next day fining me and making me clean it up and making me be a good neighbor,” said Greene. “That’s all we want from them, to be a good neighbor.”

(Edited by Ronnie Greene)

Lawsuit over Flint water crisis says 17 children have high lead levels

(Reuters) – A group of Flint, Michigan, parents and their children filed a class action on Monday alleging that gross negligence by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and others caused the city’s drinking water to become contaminated with lead.

The lawsuit was filed in Detroit federal court and seeks damages for a proposed class of “tens of thousands” of Flint residents and property owners who have suffered physical or economic injuries. The named plaintiffs are seven residents and their 17 children who lawyers say have heightened lead levels.

The state’s slow response to the water crisis drew sharp rebukes from Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on Sunday. Both called for Snyder’s resignation. A spokesman has said the Republican governor has no intention of stepping down.

Flint, a predominantly black city of 100,000, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its water source in April 2014 to the Flint River from Lake Huron. The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from city pipes and into the drinking water.

The city switched back last October after tests found high levels of lead in blood samples taken from children, but the drinking water has not returned fully to normal. Flint began replacing lead pipes running to homes on Friday.

Attorneys Hunter Shkolnik and Adam Slater allege in Monday’s lawsuit the governmental defendants failed to take measures required by federal law to eliminate the dangers and downplayed the severity of the contamination to residents.

Children are especially vulnerable to lead exposure, as even small amounts can stunt development, leading to lifelong academic and behavioral problems.

Current and former officials and workers in Michigan and Flint are named as defendants, along with engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, which was hired to assess the feasibility of using Flint River water.

A firm representative said the lawsuit mischaracterized its role and it would vigorously defend its position in court.

The lawsuit accuses the governmental defendants of gross negligence, which is an exception to the immunity that shields federal and state governments and employees from lawsuits over their official duties. The strength of the immunity defense has kept many leading plaintiffs’ lawyers away from filing lawsuits over the Flint crisis.

The families seek payment for past and future health costs and monitoring as well as compensation for lost property value, replacement of pipes and reclamation of contaminated property.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Anthony Lin and Matthew Lewis)

Michigan governor issues appeal over Flint funds denial

(Reuters) – Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has urged federal officials to reconsider their denial for funds to help deal with the crisis caused by lead-contaminated water in the city of Flint, his office said on Thursday.

The contamination and the state’s long delay in addressing the problem have sparked outrage and drawn attention from U.S. presidential candidates.

In the latest appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Snyder is requesting money to pay for food, water and other essential needs; the removal of health and safety hazards; activation of emergency operations centers; measures to avoid further damage; and homeowners’ repairs not covered by insurance.

A FEMA spokesman said Snyder’s appeal was under review by the agency.

The agency turned down an earlier request for financial help in January because the areas in which Snyder requested aid were deemed not appropriate, but has provided non-monetary support in the form of a FEMA coordinator.

Also in January, Snyder asked for federal declarations of emergency and major disaster. President Barack Obama approved the federal emergency declaration, but denied a major disaster declaration. Snyder appealed that decision and was denied.

Snyder said on Thursday that Flint needed continued local, state, federal and national efforts. “Assistance from our federal partners could go a long way in moving Flint forward,” he said.

Activists and some Democratic state lawmakers have demanded that Snyder resign, but a spokesman said the Republican governor had no intention of stepping down.

Snyder is scheduled to testify before a U.S. congressional committee on March 17.

Also on Thursday, Snyder said the federal government approved a waiver allowing for Medicaid coverage for children and pregnant women in Flint.

Flint, a predominantly black city of 100,000 about 60 miles northwest of Detroit, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched the source of its tap water from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in April 2014.

The city switched back last October after tests found high levels of lead in blood samples taken from children.

Water from the Flint River, which was more corrosive than Detroit’s, leached lead from the city’s pipes, posing widespread health risks.

Experts have said it could take some time for anti-corrosive chemicals now being added to the water to re-coat pipes so that they will not leach more lead.

Meanwhile, Flint officials said they would begin replacing lead pipes running to homes with copper on Friday as part of a $55 million project.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Ben Klayman, Tom Brown, Alan Crosby and Marguerita Choy)

Michigan governor’s aides urged switch away from Flint River

DETROIT (Reuters) – Quality problems prompted two of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s top lawyers to urge that Flint be moved back to the Detroit water system just months after a decision to draw water supply from the Flint River, according to emails released on Friday.

Several critics have called for Snyder to resign over concerns about the state’s poor handling of the crisis, and the governor said Friday he felt regret every day.

Flint switched its water supply from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014 in a bid to cut costs when the city was under a state-appointed emergency manager.

While the city switched its water source back to Detroit in October 2015, corrosive water from the river had already leached lead from city pipes, posing a serious threat to public health.

Snyder’s aides discussed Flint’s water quality problems as early as autumn 2014, with one calling the situation “downright scary,” about a year before the switch back to the Detroit system was finally made. The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News earlier reported about the emails, which were released by the governor’s office.

“That’s where I’m kicking myself every day,” Snyder said after signing a $30 million supplemental bill to reimburse Flint residents for their water bills. “I wish I would have asked more questions.”

Snyder, scheduled to testify to Congress on March 17, has repeatedly apologized for the state’s poor handling of the crisis.

Liberal group Progress Michigan again called for Snyder to resign, citing the emails.

“There’s no reasonable person who can believe at this point that every top adviser to Rick Snyder knew that there was an issue, but Snyder knew nothing,” said executive director Lonnie Scott, who also called for Snyder’s resignation.

Valerie Brader, Snyder’s senior policy adviser, addressed problems over the quality of Flint River water in an email to the governor’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, and others on Oct. 14, 2014.

She argued Flint should be returned to the Detroit water system, citing bacterial contamination and reduced quality that prompted General Motors to switch away from the river due to rusted car parts.

Michael Godola, then the governor’s legal counsel, responded, calling the Flint River as a water source “downright scary.”

On Friday, State Representative Sheldon Neeley of Flint asked Attorney General Bill Schuette for his legal opinion on whether an official withholding information that leads to death or harm can be charged criminally.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Matthew Lewis)

Protesters in Flint demand new pipes in response to water crisis

FLINT, Mich. (Reuters) – More than 500 protesters led by civil rights activist Jesse Jackson marched to the Flint water plant on Friday to demand clean water and the replacement of corroding pipes in response to the city’s lead contamination crisis.

“This is a crime scene. Somebody lied. Somebody lied. Somebody covered up. We want water we can drink,” Jackson said.

As a cost-cutting measure in 2014, Flint switched its water system from Detroit to a local river. The more corrosive water from the river leached lead from water system pipes, leading to high levels of lead in hundreds of homes.

The lead contamination – which could have been prevented with anti-corrosion treatment of the water – has become a national political scandal as emails and documents have emerged showing that Michigan officials tried to play down the problem for months.

Jackson was accompanied by ministers from the group Concerned Pastors for Social Action; Judge Greg Mathis, a syndicated television personality; and Flint mother and activist Melissa Mays.

“Thank you for coming out to march with Flint, for Flint and for yourselves, because be aware that if it can happen here it will and is happening everywhere else,” Mays told the crowd before the march began.

Some people sold “Flint Lives Matters” T-shirts and handed out bottles of water to marchers.

Governor Rick Snyder asked state lawmakers last week to provide $195 million for health, nutritional, educational, water bill payment and infrastructure aid to Flint on top of $37 million already approved for the current and fiscal 2017 budget.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has said Snyder’s allocation of $25 million to remove lead pipes falls short of the estimated $55 million price tag. Snyder pledged an additional $2 million to remove lead pipes on Thursday.

The Republican governor, who has faced sharp criticism for his response to the problem, has been called to testify on the matter before a U.S. congressional committee next month. The issue has also become a focus of the U.S. presidential campaign.

(Reporting by Serena Maria Daniels in Flint; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)