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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Joking emails about Flint water among latest released

Paul Egan Tribune News Service

DETROIT – The latest e-mails released from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s office on Thursday include playfully written messages about the quality of Flint’s drinking water and the challenge of confronting the issue.

One was sent from a state Department of Environmental Quality district engineer who repeatedly told residents that drinking water from the Flint River is safe and downplayed suggestions otherwise from reporters and other officials.

“Thanks Richard … now off to physical therapy … perhaps mental therapy with all of these Flint calls … lol,” engineer Mike Prysby wrote to fellow DEQ official Richard Benzie on Sept. 18, 2014, five months after Flint switched to the Flint River as its drinking source. Prysby did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

“I cannot provide the context for a message I did not compose, and for which I cannot recall the circumstances from more than 18 months ago,” Benzie wrote in an email responding to a request for comment.

Another was sent from the head of a regional planning group to a DEQ official, five months after the switch to the Flint River.

“Jim James!” East Michigan Council of Governments Executive Director Sue Fortune said in the Sept. 18, 2014 e-mail to DEQ drinking water official Jim Sygo.

“Tell me – WHO thought Flint’s river water was ok to drink and then ALLOWED IT? :-)))))

“Next time you’re in town, stop by!”

Fortune, whose council is based in Saginaw, did not immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.

Sygo told the Free Press that Fortune is an old friend who he worked with at a previous planning job and was pulling his chain about the Flint water troubles.

He said he didn’t reply to the email but “I probably talked to her at some point later and said, ‘Yes, we’re going to have a lot of trouble with this.’ ”