Political Fallout Begins As Flint Crisis Persists

Susan Hedman, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?s (EPA) regional administrator for Flint, Mich., resigned last week as city and state officials continue to investigate who is at fault for the city?s contaminated water distribution system. The EPA?s Office of Inspector General has also been asked to investigate the water supervision program that was under Hedman’s responsibility.

Flint has been under a federal state of emergency for more than a week after its water supply became contaminated with lead.??

Gov. Rick Snyder, who has come under fire for his handling of the crisis, may be headed to Capitol Hill to explain what happened.

On Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reported that U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence had been informed that the House Oversight Committee would hold a hearing on Flint’s water contamination next month. Her office also heard that the committee is expected to invite Snyder.

Meanwhile, emergency relief and funding has been call upon to assist the continuing crisis as thousands of citizens have been left without access to sanitary drinking water.

In one positive development, the House Appropriations Committee last week approved?a bill that would grant Snyder?s request for $28 million in supplemental funding from state legislators to help deal with the crisis.

The bill was approved by a vote of 29-0 at the Appropriations Committee hearing and then passed by the full House at a vote of 106-0.

?I appreciate the House approving funding for the immediate steps I outlined in my speech last night about how we will work to heal Flint,? Snyder said in a statement Wednesday. ?The unanimous vote demonstrates to the nation that all of Michigan is standing together help the people of Flint.?

According to a plan outlined by Snyder in his State of the State address last Tuesday, state funding will key to solving to Flint?s water crisis. Further support and recommendations will come from the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee ? a panel of water experts, public health professionals, infrastructure experts, and Flint community members who will analyze any long-term effects and make recommendations as to what resources are needed.

To date, more than 21,000 homes in Flint have been visited to provide clean water resources. According to a figure from a recent Wall Street Journal report, roughly 100,000 residents in Flint have been affected by the contaminated water.

Funding from the House bill will come from the 2015-16 budget. The $28?million, of which $22.6 million comes?from the state?s general fund, includes:

  • $17.2 million for bottled water, water filters and replacement cartridges; field operation costs for the Department of Health and Human Services;?epidemiological analysis and case management for individuals with elevated blood levels;?nutrition support and community education;?support for child and adolescent health centers, assessment of potential linkages to other diseases, food inspections and crisis counseling.
  • $5.8?million for water system needs, potential payment to the City of Flint to aid with utility issues, lab and testing costs, corrosion control procedures and an infrastructure integrity study using outside experts.
  • $2 million to help pay for the replacement of plumbing fixtures in schools, child care and adult foster care centers, nursing homes, dialysis centers and surgery centers in Flint.
  • $2 million to address funding needs for the Michigan National Guard?s role in providing support to the residents of Flint.
  • $935,000 for the hiring of nine additional school nurses for the Flint school district and funding to the Genesee Intermediate School District to hire two early service coordinators, a psychologist and a health professional to coordinate wraparound services for students and provide fresh fruits and vegetables to elementary students in Genesee County.
  • $100,000 for the Michigan State Police to pay for the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee.

Although Snyder has said state funding will provide significant relief to water infrastructure problems, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said last week it could end up costing up to $1.5 billion to fix the damaged water distribution system.

Flint Mayor: Distribution System Fix Could Cost $1.5 Billion

Flint?s drinking water supply was contaminated with lead starting in April 2014 when the city, while under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, switched the source of supply from Lake Huron water supplied by the City of Detroit to Flint River water treated at the Flint’s?city treatment plant. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials have acknowledged they made a mistake when they failed to require needed corrosion control chemicals to be added to the water.

As a result, lead leached from pipes and fixtures into the drinking water and test showed lead levels spiked in the blood of some?Flint children. Although the city switched back to Detroit water in October, officials say the potential for harm continues because of damage done to Flint’s water distribution infrastructure.

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