On CNN, Snyder grilled on replacing lead pipes in Flint

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Gov. Rick Snyder said the safest thing to do for the health of Flint residents would be to replace all lead service lines in the city, but he stopped short of committing to full replacement Wednesday.

Asked on CNN whether the lead pipes will have been replaced in five years, Snyder said, by then, “I hope a lot of work has been done on that topic. It’s too soon to tell because I can’t tell you how many pipes and where they are. But as a practical matter we should be working on that. Very clearly.”

Snyder was speaking to CNN’s Poppy Harlow in a pretaped interview that aired Wednesday night.

“Why not just immediately replace all of the lead pipes?” Harlow said.

“That’s a question that you can ask across the country. That is not a short-term project, ripping up the infrastructure,” Snyder responded.

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the cost of replacing all the lead service lines in Flint at $50 million to $80 million.

A clip of the interview posted on CNN.com includes another exchange about the pipes that Harlow had with Snyder.

“Wouldn’t that be the safest thing, governor, given what they’ve been through?” Harlow asked, referring to Flint residents.

“Yeah. That’s the safest thing. It’s a question of how to work through it in the best fashion to make sure we’re getting all the resources. Because I view this lead infrastructure, the water system is critical.”

“What’s standing in the way of that, other than money? What would stand in the way of replacing them?” Harlow said.

“Well, we’ve got a statewide issue, too, in terms of lead pipes,” Snyder said.

Snyder’s administration has been under fire for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s inaction in not requiring the city add corrosion control to Flint River water, which leached lead from aging service lines into the water supply. The state Health Department also failed to heed independent research pointing to elevated lead levels in children.

Snyder has proposed a $28 million in supplemental aid for Flint, which the Legislature is considering this week.

Harlow cited an $100 million estimate by pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha for what’s needed in medical, nutritional and educational assistance to overcome the impact of lead exposure in children. Hanna-Attisha was the first to identify elevated blood lead levels in the blood of infants and children in Flint last fall.

“Will you make sure they get $100 million?” Harlow said.

“I’m not sure she would know how to put the price tag. I have reviewed recommendations she’s made and, actually, a number of those actions we were already working on,” Snyder said.

“She’s done the analysis. I’m asking you again, $100 million, will you make sure they get that if that’s what they need?” Harlow said.

“Well, we’re making sure they get what they need,” Snyder said.

Hanna-Attisha of the Hurley Medical Center was among a group of medical and field experts appointed by Snyder this week to serve on a committee to identify long-term solutions to the crisis.

During the interview, Snyder again rejected calls for his resignation over his administration’s handling of the situation, saying he would fix the problem.


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