(10/08/15) – After weeks of begging, pleading and protests, Govenor Rick Snyder says Flint is making the switch back to Detroit for its water.
“I’m in full support of a return to the Great Lakes Water Authority and that we do this in a prompt and efficient fashion and partnership with the Great Lakes Water Authority,” Snyder said. “We all care about the citizens of Flint, all the citizens in the state and making sure we can have safe clean water for people.”
People are happy about the switch, but also wondering why it had to come to this – especially because for the past year, local and state leaders said the water is safe to drink.
Plenty of residents did not believe that, and tests eventually showed they were right.
Thursday’s announcement was great news for families struggling with the Water Emergency, but there is a whole new set of questions about when the switch will happen, how it will work and how much it will cost.
There has been protest after protest for more than a year – really ever since the city disconnected from the Detroit Water System, also known as the Great Lakes Water Authority. People demanded safe water, and with the switch, there is finally at least some hope they will get it.
That hope comes with a price tag of $12 million.
The Governor will ask the legislature for $6 million. The City of Flint will kick in $2 million. The Mott Foundation is spending $4 million to help the city reconnect. The Governor also plans to ask the state legislature for another $4 million for more filters and water testing.
“While this type of effort is typically the government’s realm, we felt that we needed to help expedite the process and solution to returning to healthy drinking water to our home community,” said Ridgeway White, of the Mott Foundation.
The Detroit Water System will be the city’s water source until the KWA Pipeline goes online next summer, bringing water from Lake Huron.
No matter where the water is coming from into Flint, lead pipes remain in the system and can continue to cause problems down the road.
“Long term, the real question is about lead pipes and lead service lines in peoples’ homes and other places and that’s where we want to look at what options are there longer term, in partnership with the federal government. And again, that needs to be a broader discussion, but that’s an important discussion to have,” Snyder said.
In a sense, the decision-makers’ hand was forced after independent researchers from Virginia Tech University and doctors at Hurley Medical Center brought the lead problems to light.
Thursday, the state revealed some disturbing findings of their own. Tests at three Flint schools showed toxic levels of lead in the water. Freeman Elementary, on the city’s south side, tested more than six times above the level considered to be safe.
“I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that our youngest and most vulnerable children could be at risk,” said Flint Mayor Dayne Walling.
We asked what will be done for these children long term.
“We are suggesting that we have specialized staff go in and really track who has elevated blood levels. You don’t know the facts until you know the facts. So we are going to test these children and then we’re going to take the steps necessary to reduce their blood levels if they have elevated blood level,” said Nick Lyon, of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Now, the answer to the number one question on people’s minds – timing.
The official switch will be in two weeks. The state says work is already being done to prepare.
People won’t just automatically see clear, lead-free water coming out of their faucets the day of the switch. You can still expect some issues and boil water orders. It’s not going to be seamless.
We’re still at least a month out from the system to be operating the way it should with Detroit.
As the state moves toward switching to the Detroit system, it is important to remember that people in Flint should continue using their lead-certified filters or drink bottled water. Thursday’s announcement did not end the city’s Water Emergency.