Emails Show Michigan Officials Knew About the Risk of Disease and Flint's Water Problems

Rick Snyder, the Republican governor of Michigan, listens to a question during an interview in New York, November 8, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

(Reuters) - Emails between Michigan state officials show they knew about an uptick in Legionnaires disease and that it could be linked to problems with Flint water many months before Governor Rick Snyder said he received information of the outbreak.

Snyder said in January that he had just learned about the rise in Legionnaires cases. However, emails obtained by the liberal group Progress Michigan and released to reporters on Thursday show Snyder's principal adviser, Harvey Hollins, was made aware of the outbreak and a possible link to the use of Flint River water last March.

Flint, a city near 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. The more corrosive water from the river leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did. Lead is a toxic agent that can damage the nervous system.

A spokesman for Snyder could not immediately be reached for comment.

Legionnaires is a type of pneumonia caused by inhaling mist infected with the bacteria Legionella. The mist may come from air-conditioning units for large buildings, hot tubs or showers.

In Washington, Senate Democrats teamed up with a band of Republicans on Thursday to block a wide-ranging U.S. energy bill in a fight over aid to help Flint cope with the drinking water crisis.