State’s $6M aid for Flint water switch signed into law

Detroit News staff and wire

Lansing — The city of Flint will receive $6 million in state aid to help temporarily switch its drinking water source back to Detroit after the discovery of lead contamination and other problems.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Thursday nearly $9.4 million in aid Thursday that includes money for water filters, inspections, lab testing and payment to reconnect Flint temporarily to the Detroit water system until its own pipeline to Lake Huron is completed.

The legislation was approved by the Senate Thursday morning in a 37-0 vote after the House quickly passed it Wednesday evening.

“This funding is a coordinated response to a serious problem, and I’m pleased so many parties came together to help deliver safe drinking water to the city of Flint,” Snyder said in a statement. “Reconnecting to the Great Lakes Water Authority is only the first step, as the state will continue testing and inspections to ensure Flint families and children have clean water in their homes and schools.”

The Legislature moved quickly after the Republican governor backed the reconnection to Detroit and the other aid on Friday. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, thanked his colleagues in the Republican-controlled chamber Thursday for moving so quickly on a matter of public health for the city he represents.

The appropriation was approved without partisan finger-pointing, something that has happened off the floor of the state Capitol. Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon has accused the Snyder administration of putting the health and safety of a city “at risk in order to prove that Republican, corporate-style governing works. Clearly, when you have to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to fix your mistakes, it does not.”

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has argued that testing of city water for many months showed water quality was still within federal safety levels. But the administration changed its mind last week when it confirmed findings by the Hurley Medical Center that lead levels in Flint children jumped dramatically after the switch to the corrosive Flint River.

Flint will provide $2 million and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has promised to provide $4 million. Returning to Detroit will cost $12 million through June.

Flint stopped getting its water from Detroit’s system last year and switched to the Flint River in a cost-cutting move. But the city has had trouble with water from the Flint River.

The state corroborated findings of elevated lead levels in children and disclosed higher levels in three Flint schools. Residents have complained about the safety, smell, taste and appearance of the water.