Flint mayor extends city’s state of emergency

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has extended an emergency declaration she first signed 11 months ago, calling for continued spotlight on a public health crisis caused by contamination of the city’s drinking water supply.

The municipal state of emergency was set to expire on Monday but will now last “until further notice,” according to the signed renewal.

“The fact of the matter is we still cannot drink our water without a filter,” Weaver said Tuesday in a statement. “That is why I have signed a declaration to renew the state of emergency in the City of Flint until the lingering issues have been resolved and the water is deemed safe to drink.”

The continued declaration does not guarantee the city any new access to outside assistance, but Weaver said it will remind citizens of the need for caution amid the lead-contaminated water crisis. She also urged county, state and federal leaders to reinstate their own emergency declarations for Flint.

Federal and state declarations expired in mid-August, but both governments have vowed to continue working in Flint until the crisis is resolved.

The city, operating under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, began using Flint River water in April 2014. After initial complaints and independent testing, the state confirmed findings of elevated lead levels in October 2015 and helped the city switch back to Detroit’s Lake Huron water supply.

“We cannot let this story die until the problem that was caused through no fault of our own has been fixed, we must continue to give this issue the attention it deserves,” said Weaver, who thanked the Flint City Council for approving the renewal.

“Next, we will send the declaration to county officials. We hope to again have the support from leaders on all levels of government including the state and federal levels.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and state legislators have approved more than $234 million in state aid for Flint since October 2015, including $25 million the city is using to begin replacement of underground lead pipes.

The federal government has provided various forms of assistance for Flint, but Congress has not yet finalized any spending plans. House Speaker Paul Ryan said last month he is “confident” Congress will approve a plan by the end of the year.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday approved a waiver allowing Michigan to use nearly $24 million in federal funds to expand lead abatement efforts across the state.

Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said the administration would evaluate a request for a new state-level emergency designation if it receives one but told The Detroit News another declaration isn’t necessary for the state to continue providing resources to help the people of Flint.

“We appreciate the mayor’s concern for her city and the governor shares her desire to help the residents of Flint continue their recovery,” Heaton said in an email.

“That’s why the State of Michigan remains committed to the ongoing recovery of Flint and its residents, not just in regard to water quality but in the quality of life afforded through efforts to improve health care, education and job opportunities in the city.”