Governor Apologizes for Flint’s Poisoned Water

     DETROIT (CN) – With a quivering voice and stumbling over his words at times, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder apologized repeatedly during his State of the State speech on Tuesday evening for the moves that exposed Flint residents to toxic levels of lead in their drinking water.
     Chanting from the large group of protestors outside was audible during the speech as Snyder asked legislators for $28 million in emergency funding.
     “I’m sorry, and I will fix it.” Snyder said. “Government failed you – federal, state and local leaders – by breaking the trust you placed in us.”
     The first segment of the speech detailed Snyder’s increased efforts to distribute clean water and filters to Flint residents. National Guard participation will increase from 80 to 200 while volunteers and state workers have reached about 5,000 homes a day with the goal of reaching nearly 40,000 households by the end of the week.
     Snyder said the emergency-funding request for Flint would not be the last, citing the need to upgrade the state’s aging infrastructure.
     “We need to make sure this never happens again in a Michigan city,” Snyder said.
     Snyder plans to use the emergency funding for an integrity study of existing water pipelines, more filters and bottled water for residents, as well as testing and the upgrade of local health care services, including child and adult foster care centers.
     Though Snyder also requested $96 million in federal funds through a major-disaster declaration, President Barack Obama denied the bid because such funds are reserved for natural catastrophes. Snyder received $5 million in federal funds but plans to appeal Obama’s decision.
     Some of funding will be used to cover the city’s utility department, which was subject to ridicule and lawsuits from outraged citizens who received shut-off notices for unpaid water bills.
     In an effort to disclose what he knew and when he knew it, Snyder said he planned to waive exemptions to the state’s freedom of information law that apply to the governor’s office and disclose his emails from 2014 and 2015 when his office reacted slowly to complaints from citizens about cloudy and foul-tasting water.
     “You deserve accountability … most of all, you deserve to know the truth,” Snyder said.
     Snyder said the Department of Environmental Quality allowed Flint to draw water from the Flint River without using corrosion-control chemicals that would keep lead pipes from expelling toxic particles into the supply.
     On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admitted in a statement it should have hastened its confrontation of the problems with Flint’s drinking water.
     “While the EPA worked within the framework of the law to repeatedly and urgently communicate the steps the state needed to take to properly treat its water, those necessary actions were not taken as quickly as they should have been,” the agency said.
     There is disagreement as to how funds should be spent to aid Flint.
     Michigan House Appropriations Chairperson Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, is apprehensive about using the state’s projected $574 million budget surplus to help poisoned citizens.
     “We have to look and have the best science and see what we can do to fix things,” Pscholka said. “I’m already receiving Christmas lists from Flint elected officials. That’s not going to solve this issue.”
     Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson suggested at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon that the crisis was overblown but later clarified that he meant there were simply other viewpoints on the subject.
     Flint’s water system became contaminated when the city switched to Flint River water in April 2014 while under control of an emergency manager appointed by Gov. Snyder. After it was confirmed the water contained elevated levels of lead by independent studies, it was switched back to the city of Detroit’s Lake Huron system.

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