Part of the general consensus about the choice to switch the water source in Flint, Michigan, from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) and the interim Flint River source has been that the DWSD was simply too expensive to continue using. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder cited the costs of Detroit water in his State of the State address and the accompanying timeline. Although there is evidence that then-state treasurer Andy Dillon and other officials killed outside reports that the switch would not be cost-saving, the expense of DWSD water has been well-documented as a key factor in the cascade of bad decisions, neglect, and malfeasance that led to the citizens of Flint being exposed to lead in their water.
However, new emails obtained by the Motor City Muckraker and confirmed by officials call into question even that basic assumption. Emails from DWSD show that the department was offering or intending to offer a substantial discount on water service to Flint. Motor City Muckraker reports:
An e-mail obtained by Motor City Muckraker shows the deal would have saved the city $800 million over 30 years, which was 20% more inexpensive than switching to the Karegnondi Water Authority.
A high-ranking DWSD official told us today that Detroit offered a 50% reduction over what Flint had been paying Detroit. In fact, documents show that DWSD made at least six proposals to Flint, saying “the KWA pipeline can only be attributed to a ‘political’ objective that has nothing to do with the delivery – or the price – of water.”
The offer by DWSD raises serious questions about whether Gov. Rick Snyder was lying when he insisted the water switch was motivated by saving money for Flint, which was under the control of a state emergency manager. [...]
The e-mail was first obtained by the Bill Johnson Group, a Detroit-based media consulting firm, and confirmed today by DWSD.
“If Snyder had accept[ed] this deal, the catastrophe would have been avoided,” Bill Johnson said.
The temporary switch to the Flint River and the total disregard for life displayed by officials at all levels were unconscionable and cost citizens a great deal regardless of the ultimate reason for it. However, given the significant amounts of money in play here, and given that the reason generally cited for government callousness was cost-saving, it is vital to know and understand just what the actual objectives were for the switch.