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Gov. Snyder announces action plan to fix Flint crisis

Posted at 9:27 AM, Mar 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-21 09:27:04-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP/WXMI) — Days after facing tough questions and biting commentary from members of Congress in Washington D.C., Gov. Rick Snyder pitched his new comprehensive action plan to help resolve Flint's lead-tainted water crisis in the coming years.

Snyder on Monday announced the 75-point plan to improve public health, address old infrastructure, support educational services and boost employment. Some of the shorter-term steps announced already are taking place.

Speaking to a crowd in Grand Rapids during an Economic Club luncheon, Snyder stood by his decision to testify when asked, saying it was an important part of the process.

"Flint is an illustration of where we failed at all levels of government," Snyder told the crowd, which welcomed him with a standing ovation, a stark contrast to his reception on Capitol Hill days prior.

"Hopefully I answered their questions and now I’m going back to problem-solving mode."

The governor's plan includes short-, intermediate- and long-term goals, but stops short of calling for ripping all lead service pipes out of the ground in Flint. Instead, Snyder said he's focusing on a pilot project to remove and replace 30 lead lines.

“The mayor has her program we’ve been supportive of, but the 30 lines was part of that engineering study," Snyder told reporters following the luncheon. "That’s the part that's underway today and as we learn from that, the goal should be to get the lead service lines out. I’ve also said that.”

Snyder said work is still being done to locate and identify which pipes running under Flint are made of lead.

"It’s a big task, there’s a lot of lines," he said.

Beyond lead pipes, Snyder is aiming to establish “a much higher standard” for water beyond the federal Lead and Copper Rule, which he once again criticized for being "dumb and dangerous." However, the plan doesn’t specify the new requirements.

The plan also calls for creating protocols through team work and data sharing between the state and federal Environmental Protection Agency to determine when the water can be declared safe again to drink.

But timelines for many of the long-term plans remain elusive.

Key tasks proposed in the action plans include:

Health and Human Services

  • Children under 6 with high blood lead levels offered professional support and case management.
  • Work with Flint’s community groups to review grocery options in underserved areas and secure new options if needed.
  • Add three additional Child and Adolescent Health Centers in the city.
  • Place professionals trained in development and cognitive screening throughout the county.
  • Mobile food distribution program meeting community needs geographically.

Water Supply and Infrastructure

  • Replace drinking water faucets and fixtures in public facilities connected to the Flint water system, including schools, daycares and elder care homes.
  • Support the city of Flint to identify and prioritize replacement of lead service lines and other infrastructure to ensure Flint’s water system is suitable for drinking and everyday use.
  • Replace 30 lead services lines with Rowe Professional Services under Mayor Weaver’s Fast Start Program.
  • Flint (and all Michigan communities) will comply with a much higher standard than existing federal Lead & Copper Rule.
  • Partner with the city and county to plan for future connection to Karegnondi Water Authority.

Education

  • Increase resources for Flint Community Schools and Genesee Intermediate School District to expand early education services to children up to age 3.
  • Add nine school nurses to Flint Community Schools.
  • Expand free breakfast program into all Flint Community Schools classrooms; partner with Blue Cross Blue Shield to facilitate salad bars at 20 additional schools.
  • Provide Flint children under 6 with robust screening for additional behavioral health needs.

Jobs and Economic Development

  • Complete Flint Riverfront Development Project, including removal of Hamilton Dam, by end of 2019.
  • Finalize $5.5 million financing on redevelopment of Capitol Theater.
  • Develop home mortgage lending/financing options for undervalued homes.
  • Complete training and development for at least 500 Flint residents to achieve long-term employment by the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, Flint's mayor says work is ramping up to replace lead service lines amid the city's crisis with lead-tainted water.

Mayor Karen Weaver issued an update Monday on her "Fast Start" program, saying crews are expected to replace lines at two houses a day through the end of March if weather permits.

The first line was replaced with a new copper line under the program earlier this month, two are expected to be replaced on Monday and other homes getting replacements have been identified.

Weaver says in a statement that: "Now that the homes have been identified and the permits are secured, crews can get to work replacing more pipes."

The goal of the program is to replace thousands of lead-tainted service lines in the city. She says galvanized steel lines also will be replaced.

Since October, state lawmakers have approved nearly $70 million in funding to aide Flint's water crisis recovery. Snyder is also requesting an additional $232 million be set aside in the new fiscal year budget for Flint and infrastructure upgrades.

On Monday, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder demanding to be reimburse more than $1 million for money the county spent in response to the Flint water crisis. Officials said the county needs the money as soon as possible so it doesn’t have to lay off workers and to maintain its bond rating.

Asked about the request on Monday, Snyder said “I’ve heard it’s coming, so when I get it I’ll review it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.