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Snyder cancels Flint meeting amid lawsuit threat

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s office said Tuesday it has canceled an upcoming Flint water crisis response meeting after Mayor Karen Weaver threatened to sue the state for cutting off a years-long supply of free bottled water.

The Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee, which Snyder created by executive order in 2016, was set to meet Friday. But “the state’s legal counsel has advised against proceeding… until the city’s intentions have been established,” Snyder’s office told members in a notice.

“At that time, we will seek to provide clarification around meeting protocols and whether legal counsel would need to be present for (the committee) to continue its work.”

Weaver criticized the meeting cancellation, suggesting neither she nor her public health adviser, who are both members of the coordinating committee, received the notice before the media asked her about it.

“This is unfortunate,” the mayor said in a statement. “It appears that state officials are trying to stop productive measures in place to help Flint, because I spoke out and expressed my disappointment with the outcome of what I hoped would be a productive meeting with the governor.”

Weaver said Monday the city is exploring legal options against Snyder and the state for ending bottled water service.

She alleged Snyder told her to “get over” it during a private meeting, a characterization the governor’s office disputed. Flint Legal Counsel Angela Wheeler said the city must “explore all possibility” of a potential lawsuit against the state.

The governor’s office described his Monday sit-down with Weaver as “a good discussion” about a continued partnership between the city and state.

Snyder announced April 6 that Michigan would stop providing free bottled water to Flint residents, citing nearly two years of test results showing falling lead levels in city tap water. Supplies ran out last week.

Preliminary data from early 2018 testing showed 90 percent of high-risk Flint water sites at or below 4 parts per billion of lead, well below the federal action limit of 15 ppb, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Some Flint residents have said they do not trust government officials who initially downplayed quality complaints after the city temporarily switched to Flint River water in April 2014. Weaver argues the state has a “moral” responsibility to provide water since state emergency managers and environmental regulators contributed to the crisis.

Snyder created the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee to “bring together a wide range of experts” for work on long-term solutions to the water contamination crisis and resulting public health concerns.

In canceling Friday’s meeting, the governor’s office told members it does not have a reschedule date. The committee last met Feb. 17.