Editorial: Snyder plan forces action beyond Flint

The Detroit News
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Flint’s water contamination is not a short-term problem, nor is it an isolated one. Beyond the immediate crisis is the need to fix the systems that failed in Flint, and to address the impact for decades to come. Gov. Rick Snyder’s 75-point plan is a big step toward not just addressing Flint’s needs, but making sure nothing like this happens again in Michigan.

And it should put an end to the narrative that nothing is being done to help the city. Snyder and his team are now intensely focused on Flint, and this strategy for ongoing accountability should build confidence among residents that there is a solid plan for making things right.

Some of the goals in Snyder’s plan are immediate, others long term.

Children under age 6 who tested for high lead levels will be offered professional support and case management. Those kids deserve individual attention and aid for whatever future problems the lead in the drinking water has caused. All children younger than 6 will also receive vigorous screening for additional behavioral health needs.

The state will add three child and adolescent health centers throughout the city and nine new nurses to Flint Community Schools.

And it will continue to support the community’s nutrition with health foods in schools and appropriate grocery store options.

The state will replace drinking water faucets and fixtures in public facilities connected to the Flint water system, including schools, day care centers and elder care homes. That’s in addition to the promise to support Flint in identifying and prioritizing the replacement of lead service lines.

The state will also help the city plan for a future connection to the Karegnondi Water Authority.

Snyder added he would like to see Flint and all Michigan communities held to a higher standard than the current federal Lead and Copper Rule for safe drinking water.

That’s something Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards has also been calling for – in Flint and elsewhere. He says the current law not only isn’t being enforced, but it doesn’t go far enough to protect kids from lead exposure.

As it currently stands, if lead concentrations exceed 15 parts per billion or copper concentrations exceed 1.3 parts per million in more than 10 percent of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion.

But that means 10 percent of individuals in the system can be exposed and the water system still meets federal guidelines. That standard should be strengthened.

Snyder’s plan also includes economic development for Flint, which the city needed before the water contamination crisis and desperately needs now. Helping facilitate lending and financing options for homeowners affected by the lead in the water will be a critical part of the governor’s response.

Almost half the people in the country are now worried about the safety of their water supply following Flint, according to a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. If Michigan is successful, it can lead the way for restoring confidence in public water systems.

The governor has laid out a comprehensive, action-oriented plan. It’s time to move past the blame game and implement it.

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