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State cutting Flint subsidies paying for water from Detroit

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is stopping a pair of financial lifelines that helped Flint residents through the city’s water crisis.

A year ago, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation reimbursing Flint residents who were charged for water they could not safely drink. The money has been critical to city efforts to encourage Flint residents to run water through their taps in hopes of facilitating efforts to heal the damage done by improperly treated Flint River water.

The credits have cost the state $40 million. The money has also helped ease the burden Flint’s high water and sewer bills have on city residents. 

But according to a letter from Richard Baird, a Senior Advisor to the governor, to city officials, lead levels in Flint’s tap water are now within federal action levels.

As you are aware, the results from the latest round of testing of Flint’s water completed a full 6-month cycle and the outcomes reflect results below the federal action level for the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). The 6-month LCR testing results showed 12 ppb. In addition, the latest round (November2016) of testing from extended sentinel sites in Flint demonstrated that Flint’s water had a 90th percentile value of 8 ppb.

The state is also ending a $1.2 million subsidy to help the city pay for water from Detroit. In the fall of 2015, in the wake of test results showing high lead levels in the city’s tap water and the blood of Flint children, Gov. Snyder announced the state would help pay to put Flint back on Detroit water. Now it will be up to the city to pay the Great Lakes Water Authority itself. 

The state will continue to provide bottled water, filters and filter cartridges.  

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says improving water quality is a good thing. However, she wishes the state assistance wasn’t ending so soon.

“We knew the state’s assistance with these water related expenses would come to an end at some point,” Weaver said in a written statement, “I just wish we were given more notice so we at City Hall, and the residents had more time to prepare for the changes.”

A governor's spokeswoman says the MDEQ discussed ending the subsidy last month.

Flint is likely going to have to stay on Detroit water for at least three more years.

A consultant’s report suggests it will take three years to upgrade Flint’s water plant before it’s ready to accept water from a new pipeline connected to Lake Huron.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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