CHICAGO — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said this week the state plans to offer assistance to the city of Flint, which has faced serious drinking water pollution problems since breaking off from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department last year.
The city is also considering a return to the Detroit system for a short time until a new pipeline tapping Lake Huron comes online next year.
Snyder’s announcement comes after more than a year of protests from Flint residents complaining about the smell and look of the water the city has pulled from the Flint River since cutting ties with the Detroit system.
A recent study shows the water has “very serious lead-in” problems, and another study revealed a spike in the number of Flint children under 16 who have elevated lead levels. The city declared a health advisory last week.
Snyder said Tuesday the state will take some kind of action to help Flint handle the problem, but did not offer details. He told local reporters that the state has a “large team” working on the problem.
“I take it as a serious issue, the Flint water situation,” he said. “Lead’s a serious issue, so we’re spending a lot of time and effort looking at that and trying to partner with the people in Flint on that issue.”
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.
Meanwhile, local reports said that Michigan officials in the summer quietly distributed faucet filters to Flint residents. The governor’s office did not publicize the action and asked the local group that distributed the filters to remain quiet about it, according to the Detroit News.
“We found there were probably things that weren’t fully understood when that switch [from Detroit] was made,” Snyder said Wednesday during a press conference on a separate matter, according to the News. “I just thought it was the right thing to do to help people in a constructive way.”
Detroit officials in early 2015 offered to reconnect Flint’s service, but the city rejected the offer, saying it would cost $12 million more a year.
Flint broke away from the Detroit system last year after 37 years. Since April 2014 it has been getting its water from the Flint River and treating it at its own treatment plant. The city eventually plans to get its water through the Karegnondi Water Authority, which will use Lake Huron water, but that new water system won't be completed until the end of 2016.