LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The mayor of Flint is planning to meet with Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday to discuss Michigan’s decision to withdraw some financial assistance that was originally offered to help the beleaguered city and its residents cope with a man-made public health crisis caused by lead-contaminated tap water.
The state announced three weeks ago that it will stop paying a portion of customers’ bills and also halt covering Flint’s costs to use water from the Great Lakes Water Authority — a move that will save the state more than $2 million per month.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said Monday that the customer credits were supposed to continue through March and that she is disappointed by the “short notice” that they will last instead through February. She said during a news conference at city hall that while her goal is to get “the state out” of Flint, “we weren’t ready for credits to be suspended.”
Weaver’s office will discuss her concerns with Snyder at a meeting Tuesday afternoon in Lansing. His office reiterated that the payments will end because the level of lead in the city’s water no longer exceeds the federal limit. Residents are still encouraged to use faucet filters provided by the state.
Snyder’s office estimates that the state will have spent $41 million partially reimbursing customer bills for a nearly three-year period ending after the February billing cycle. Another $17.8 million has been contributed toward Flint’s Great Lakes Water Authority payments, including a $6 million reconnection fee.
“The city does have the option to extend water bill credits through its budget,” Snyder’s spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.
Weaver said city officials argue that the credits — which cover roughly two-thirds of the water portion of residential water/sewer bills — should last until the water is safe to drink without a filter, “so we’re going to continue to keep pushing that because we know we deserve more.”
Flint’s water emergency began when lead from old underground lines leached into the water supply because corrosion-reducing phosphates were not added due to an incorrect reading of federal regulations by state regulators. Elevated levels of lead, a neurotoxin, were detected in children, and 12 people died in a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that experts suspect was linked to the improperly treated water.
Michigan has allocated $253 million toward resolving the emergency. Criminal charges have been brought against 13 current or former government officials, including two emergency managers who were appointed by Snyder to run the city. The Republican governor is asking the GOP-led Legislature for nearly $49 million for the next budget year for more filter cartridges, continued health and other services, and to bolster a reserve fund for future needs such as lead pipe replacements.
(Photo Source: AP)