The chief deputy director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Jim Sygo apparently feels that the Flint water crisis has been overplayed since it made headlines last year.
Sygo was interviewed in March first by the Michigan State Police, where he says that the former Municipal Assistance chief for the Office of Drinking Water Liane Shekter Smith and regulator Stephen Busch had been “thrown under the bus” when they were fired in January and February for their involvement in poisoning the Flint water supply in 2014.
The Detroit News writes that the DEQ director felt that when he learned that Shekter Smith had been fired, it didn’t follow the civil service process, according to a 33-year veteran of the DEQ department Lt. Lisa Rish.
“He felt there was politics involved with the Flint water issue. Mr Sygo said he felt that Ms. Shekter Smith was ‘thrown under the bus’ and Mr. Busch ‘was probably there, too.'”
The article goes into more details about others involved in a criminal investigation between the state police and local authorities, and a report which has 11-pages of redacted statements from Busch and Prysby, who was also let go. But the report includes statements from others, not unlike Jim Sygo, who say that these people were great employees and they didn’t see that they did anything wrong.
The investigation which resulted in those firings was conducted by a task force appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Michigan Live also reported on Jim Sygo’s comments and verified that the director feels the whole situation is political and “more created than anything else” – possibly by people with ulterior motives.
The report obtained with the missing pages for the investigation conducted by state police provides even more details of the director’s statements.
“Sygo said from 1897 until 1967, Flint used river water and ‘the pipers were not destroyed in those sixty-some years.’ the report says. ‘Mr. Sygo felt that a lot of this was overplayed as to what the crisis was in Flint.'”
Even more, he apparently said in the interview that the president and CEO of Mott Children’s Heath Center, Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, was promoting this as a crisis in order to secure money for the city, and that he “was slamming his fist on the table saying that ‘they’ needed to keep this a crisis and this was the only way that Flint was going to get money.”
When Reynolds was asked about this on Wednesday, he said that it “seems like a complete fabrication.”
Neither of the two sources are able to get a response from the organization or Jim Sygo himself.
Since lead poisoning of the water supply was discovered, the state and the city’s administration have been pressured to solve the problem quickly, while children became ill from the water and while the state is still in a phase of financial recovery.
The entire Flint water crisis started when the city figured it could save money by switching over to the Flint river as their main water supply which corroded pipes throughout the city.
Administrators would not admit for a year that there was a problem with the water, despite growing demand from the citizens and reports that people were getting sick.
The state has also been at odds with the federal government even before the Flint water crisis where they ideologically believed they do not need the government’s involvement, before they started asking for help.
Congressional leaders noticed this and called out the state’s Governor Snyder for attacking Washington and then turning around to ask them for help.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich has recently published an op-ed with The Guardian about how the lack of transparency in municipalities in the area goes past the Flint water crisis and into other cities.
[Image by Paul Sancya / AP Photo]