Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said he plans to hold the state to stricter lead-level rules than required by federal regulations as the state government on Monday released goals to help the city of Flint recover from a lead-contamination crisis.
The recovery plan for Flint targets four areas: water supply and infrastructure, health and human services, education, and economic development. The effort seeks to improve on current US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, which state that a water system need only take steps to curb corrosion if lead concentrations surpass 15 parts per billion in more than 10 percent of taps sampled.
“About 10 percent of your population could have lead in their water over the action limit and the EPA will sign off and say that your municipal water system is OK,” said Ari Adler, spokesman for the governor’s office.
While Governor Snyder's proposal “isn't specifically defined,” Mr. Adler added, it will “certainly be better than the current rule.”
The plan’s release comes after Snyder testified in Congress last week about his role in the crisis. Under intense questioning, the governor placed some of the burden on career politicians in Washington and Michigan. But he also repeatedly apologized for his part in the disaster, which took place after the city – then under state financial management – switched its water supply to the Flint River in 2014 as part of a cost-cutting effort.
A failure to treat the water with anti-corrosion chemicals allowed lead to leach from aging pipes and water fixtures. More than 200 Flint children have since been diagnosed with dangerously high blood-levels of lead.
Addressing the children affected by the crisis is among the key points of Michigan’s plan. The state intends to open three more child health centers in the city to help provide professional support from state health officials for children under 6 who showed high blood-lead levels. The plan also includes the replacement of water fixtures in public facilities such as schools, elder care homes, and daycare centers, the governor’s office said.
The plan also includes further replacement of thousands of lead service lines in the city's water system, which could take years.
Still, Snyder said Monday that the state was committed to addressing the needs of Flint’s residents, for both the short and long term.
"Many departments have been involved in addressing the immediate crisis in whatever way they could," he said in a statement. "At the same time, they have been working on longer-term plans."
The plan can be altered as new demands arise, state officials said.
This report contains material from The Associated Press and Reuters.