Flint Reconnects to Detroit Water System Amid Elevated Lead Levels

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CHICAGO – Flint, Mich. will reconnect with Detroit’s water and sewer system after a year of struggling with polluted water from the Flint River.

Gov. Rick Snyder made the announcement Thursday, saying the state will contribute $6 million to the $12 million cost of reconnecting with the Detroit system for a year.

Flint broke off from the Detroit Water and Sewerage System, since renamed the Great Lakes Water Authority, in 2014, saying it was too expensive. The city began pulling water from the Flint River with a plan to use the river water until 2016, when it will get its water from a new pipeline built by Genesee County.

It quickly became clear that the Flint River water was polluted, with residents complaining of a yellowish color and strong odor. Recent tests show lead levels exceeding federal standards, including in elementary schools.

Snyder said at a press conference Thursday he would ask the Legislature to appropriate half of the $12 million reconnection cost until the city is linked to the Karegnondi Water Authority next year.

The move back to the Detroit system will not completely solve the lead problem, officials said. The city will still need to rehab its pipes and households will need to replace lead pipes and plumbing. The state has been handing out water filters to residents, and will commit an additional $3.5 million for more filters, the governor’s office said.

Flint has repeatedly asked the state for help. Mayor Dayne Walling in mid-September asked the state for $30 million to tackle the contamination, including $10 million for lead removal. Michigan gave Flint $2 million in February to help with its water quality.

“Reconnecting to Detroit is the fastest way to deliver clean, safe water to Flint and stabilize the infrastructure system,” Walling said in a statement. “Reconnecting to Detroit is a major step that the city could not take alone given budget constraints.”

The state will contribute $6 million, Flint will contribute $2 million and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation will kick in $4 million.

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