Michigan governor plans stricter lead-test rules after Flint
Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday he wants Flint and the entire state to have more stringent lead-level regulations than what federal rules require, following the city's water contamination crisis.
In the long term Michigan will comply with a "much higher standard," according to a state document laying out the next steps in Flint in four areas -- water supply and infrastructure, health and human services, education, and economic development.
Much of the plan released Monday is not necessarily new but more of an effort to compile various state tasks into one document -- both to delineate short-, medium and long-range goals but also to combat critics who have accused the Republican governor of not doing enough to help Flint.
Snyder did not specify what regulations his administration will seek. Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules that Snyder has called "dumb and dangerous," a water system must take steps to control corrosion if lead concentrations exceed 15 parts per billion in more than 10 percent of customer taps sampled.
"About 10 percent of your population could have lead in their water over the action limit and the EPA will sign off and say that your municipal water system is OK," Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said. The governor's proposal "isn't specifically defined," he said, but will "certainly be better than the current rule."
Anti-corrosion measures were not deployed when Flint, under state financial management, switched the water supply to the Flint River in 2014 to save money. That allowed lead to leach from aging pipes and reach homes. Some children's blood has tested positive for lead, which has been linked to learning disabilities and behavioral problems.
Snyder testified last week in Congress, where he came under intense questioning. He blamed career bureaucrats in the federal government and in his state but also repeatedly apologized for his role in the crisis.
Goals in the outline that have been completed include offering children under age 6 with high blood-lead levels support and case management, distributing water instruction flyers in other languages and getting a team in place to help with economic development.
Many tasks remain, such as replacing thousands of lead pipes running from water mains to houses and businesses -- a process that could take years -- along with swapping out faucets and fixtures in schools, day care centers and other public facilities. Intermediate goals to be done within four months include helping plan the city's connection to a new regional pipeline -- it is reconnected to Detroit's system for now -- training parents, teachers and others on screening children for development delays and other effects of lead exposure, and hiring community liaisons in Flint.
Mayor Karen Weaver said Monday work is ramping up to replace an initial 30 lead service lines by the end of the month. State officials are hopeful that the water can be declared safe to drink without a filter this spring, potentially after the regular testing of 600 key sites is finished in April.
Genesee County, where Flint is located, sent a letter to Snyder on Monday demanding reimbursement for more than $1.1 million it says it spent responding to Flint's "man-made" water crisis. Sheriff Robert Pickell said without state aid, county employees might have to be laid off.
"The one thing that the governor can do, he can make it right to the people in Genesee County," he said.
The state, which has allocated $67 million toward the disaster, will "take it under advisement," Adler said.
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