Four months after being notified about high lead levels in a Flint home, the Environmental Protection Agency was prepared to let the city continue giving lead-contaminated water to customers until at least 2016, emails released Friday show.
Jennifer Crooks, the Michigan program manager for the EPA's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, sent out an agenda on June 8, 2015, for a planned call with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials.
In that email, Crooks said it was known that Flint had not been adding any corrosion-control chemicals to its water to prevent lead from leaching from the pipes into drinking water since April 2014. She said the city was in its second six-month testing period.
It didn't make sense for the city to start a corrosion control program in June 2015, Crooks wrote.
"Since Flint has lead service lines, we understand some citizen-requested lead sampling is exceeding the Action Level, and the source of drinking water will be changing again in 2016, so to start a Corrosion Control Study now doesn't make sense," Crooks wrote.
"The idea to ask Flint to simply add phosphate may be premature; there are many other issues and factors that must be taken into account which would require a comprehensive look at the water quality and the system before any treatment recommendations can/should be made."
The email was sent almost four months after EPA researcher Miguel Del Toral was made aware of high lead in Flint's water.
Included in the documents is an April 27 memo from Del Toral that informs state environment officials on the call that there are high amounts of lead in the water.
"The water director appears to be telling residents that the high lead from Ms. (LeAnne) Walters residence is from the internal plumbing and that a reporter she was talking to, as well as others, has confirmed that this is what residents are being told," Del Toral wrote.
"Ms. Walters indicated that the line coming into the home appears to be galvanized pipe. If this is true, it is possible that her portion of the service line, from the home to the property line, is not lead and that the city-owned portion of the service line is the only source of lead here. The sample results should help to clarify where the lead is coming from."
The EPA, the state of Michigan and the local water officials in Flint have been criticized for their adherence to bureaucratic process in the face of increasing evidence of problems with Flint's water supply.
Shortly after Crooks' email was released, Del Toral wrote a scathing memo detailing the high amounts of lead in Flint's water that was later leaked.
It took until September 2015 for a lead advisory to be sent out by the city, and the state did not step in until October 2015.
Corrosion control was eventually added back into the water. Gov. Rick Snyder calls that the most important first step in returning safe drinking water to Flint. The water in the city of about 100,000 is still not safe to drink.