Gov. Rick Snyder announced Thursday that he supports Flint's efforts to reconnect to Detroit's water system, following a public health emergency that showed raised levels of lead in Flint's water supply after it decided in 2014 to start drawing water from the Flint River to save costs.
The governor is asking state legislators for $6 million to help shoulder the $12 million price tag for reconnecting to the Great Lakes Water Authority — Detroit's regional water system — for the next nine months. The remaining funds will come from the city of Flint ($2 million) and the Flint-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation ($4 million).
Ultimately the goal is for Flint to build a new pipeline connecting to Lake Huron; however, in the interim reconnecting to Detroit's water system appears to be the safest option. Wednesday a panel of water industry and health experts met with Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and reiterated the need
for this provisional plan.
Since ending its contact with Detroit in April 2014 and starting to use the Flint River, the city has seen a spike in lead due to the corrosive nature of the river water — it eats away at the city's lead pipes, and then dumps lead-tainted water into homes across the 100,000 person city.
While Gov. Snyder is currently vocal about the need to find solutions to the Flint water crisis, this has not always been the case. In August when Virginia Tech researchers and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan partnered for the "Flint Water Study
" — an independent test of nearly 300 water samples, which found multiple homes pouring water with lead levels far surpassing the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level — Gov. Snyder's team scoffed at the results and disputed the findings.
It was not until a second independent study
, conducted by a pediatrician with Hurley Medical Center, was released last week that Gov. Snyder admitted to the severity of the problem. The second study focused on lead levels in children — looking at blood samples before and after Flint switched its water supply from Detroit to the Flint River — and found that since the change children with raised lead levels in their blood had jumped from 2.1 percent to 4 percent. In some areas, the amount of children with elevated lead levels had risen as high as 6.3 percent.
"It appears that lead levels could be higher or have increased," Snyder said last week following the release of the Hurley study. ABC News reports
that even before the study came out — as his office was still trying to discredit the first "Flint Water Study" — Gov. Snyder was working behind the scenes to address the issue by quietly passing out 1,500 water filters last month.