Snyder Signs $28 Million Bill for Flint Aid

To say the floodgates have opened on the water crisis in Flint, Mich., would be an understatement, with seemingly worse developments unfolding daily as the situation remains unfixed and the water distribution system remains contaminated with unsafe levels of lead.

In a recent development, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill on Friday to provide $28 million in supplemental funding for Flint. The governor said he hopes residents will be able to use safe drinking water from their taps within two to three months.

But Snyder also reiterated that a decision on safe drinking water will depend on testing, including validation from outside experts, and said his administration will not set any timeline.

?We?d all hope sooner rather than later,? Snyder said of potable tap water. ?But it?s not based on time. It?s based on science, facts and caution to make sure we?re doing the right thing by the people of Flint.?
The $28 million in new funding will help pay for additional bottled water, childhood health assessments, nutritious school food, nurses and other services in Flint.

It?s been a rough couple weeks for Snyder with criticism apparently reaching a new high this past weekend as the governor was heckled by Michigan residents during public appearances and some calling for his resignation. But Snyder told CNN last week that he has no plans to walk away.

?We don’t walk away if something doesn’t go right,? Snyder said upon signing the funding bill. ?Let’s stand up together as Michiganders to say mistakes were made, problems happened, we’re going to solve them, we’re going to fix them, and we’re going to [be] stronger.?

The money will certainly not fix all of Flint?s water problems. Ina letter to President Barack Obama in January, Snyder acknowledged it could take more than $767 million to replace Flint’s water system. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has previously said it could end up costing $1.5 billion to fix the damaged distribution system.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has come out criticizing the state?s response, calling it inadequate and expressing concern over ?continuing delays and lack of transparency.?

?There continues to be inadequate transparency and accountability with regard to provision of test results and actions taken, and those are critical for the people of Flint,? McCarthy wrote in a statement. ?In addition, there is an increasing concern about the capacity to carry out the recommended actions and to safely manage Flint?s drinking water system.?

But others have also raised concern over EPA?s handling of the crisis, questioning why Susan Hedman, the agency?s regional administrator for Flint, has since resigned if the EPA ?did its job,? as McCarthy also said last month.

While state and federal officials continue to trade barbs over who is at fault for the Flint disaster, the attention now turns to fixing the system. But political fallout seems far from over.

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.

Did State Employees Receive Clean Drinking Water?

According to state government e-mails released Thursday by the liberal group Progress Michigan, state officials were arranging for coolers of purified water in Flint’s State Office Building so employees wouldn’t have to drink from the taps. At the same time, officials were telling worried Flint residents their water was safe to drink, the Detroit Free Press reported on Friday.

On Jan. 7, 2015, a notice from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which oversees state office buildings, referenced a notice about a violation of drinking water standards that had recently been sent out by the City of Flint.

?While the City of Flint states that corrective actions are not necessary, DTMB is in the process of providing a water cooler on each occupied floor, positioned near the water fountain, so you can choose which water to drink,? said the notice. ?The coolers will arrive today and will be provided as long as the public water does not meet treatment requirements.?

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for DTMB, said the water coolers were provided in response to the city health notice in late December or early January, which he acknowledged was about a contamination issue?the city said had already subsided. The state continued to provide the coolers of purified water, right up to today, because “there were more findings as we went along,? Buhs said.

Buhs said his department?never told state workers the tap water was unsafe to drink, but only provided an alternative, as a landlord would do for tenants.

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said it appears the state was not as slow as initially thought in responding to the Flint drinking water crisis.

?Sadly, the only response was to protect the Snyder administration from future liability and not to protect the children of Flint,? Scott said. ?While residents were being told to relax and not worry about the water, the Snyder administration was taking steps to limit exposure in its own building.?

Snyder first acknowledged a problem in early October, which has since become a full blown health crisis. Dan Wyant, former director of Michigan?s Department of Environmental Quality resigned in December after acknowledging officials failed to require the city to use needed corrosion-control chemicals when they switched the source of their supply to Lake Huron water treated by Detroit to Flint River water treated at the Flint water treatment plant.

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