On January 29, federal, state, and local officials in Michigan are telling Flint residents to have their water tested for toxic lead after more than two dozen recent samples were found to have exceeded levels that can be effectively treated by the filters being distributed free of charge to residents by the government. While recent state and federal environmental protection officials found extremely high lead levels – from 153 parts per billion to more than 4,000 parts per billion – the filters being distributed are only rated to treat water with 150 parts per billion.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Centers for Disease Control both recommend minimizing lead exposure when tap water reaches a level of only 15 parts per billion. However, no level of lead exposure is considered safe.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder released a statement calling on citizens to obtain testing kits available at the several fire stations in Flint. Radio announcements are being broadcast on state and local stations urging citizens to get their water tested.

Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D), Flint

State Senator Jim Ananich (D), a Flint resident who is also the Senate Minority Leader, has been the point-man in criticizing the state government’s response to the crisis. In a statement released on January 29, Ananich rejected claims made by Caleb Buhs of the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget that purified water that was being provided to state employees in Flint was also available to the general public. In a statement, Ananich declared, Of all the nonsense we’ve been fed from the administration about the crisis they caused, this latest lunacy might take the cake.” In an interview with Spero News, Ananich expressed frustration with the state government and the governor over its response to the water crisis.

Visible second from left is former Flint city manager Darnell Earley. To the right of Earley is former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling (D)

Gov. Snyder signed a $28 million budget supplemental funding bill to come to the aid of the citizens of Flint who remain in the midst of an on-going water crisis. Snyder, a Republican, had requested the funding during his State of the State Address on January 19. Ii was approved by Michign’s bicameral legislature on January 28. Snyder signed it on the next morning. Snyder said of the funding bump, “We know that more money will be needed to address long-term concerns and I want to reassure the families of Flint that I remain dedicated to fixing this problem.”

The money is intended to ensure that the residents of Flint, and any water customers outside of the city who get Flint water, have access to clean drinking water. In addition, they are to receive:

* Free bottled water, faucet filters, and testing kits for Flint residents;

* Nine nurses will be placed in local schools to monitor student health and well-being;

* Improved food for students and infants through WIC and in-school nutrition programs;

* Replacement of fixtures in schools, daycare centers, nursing homes and hospitals;

* Treat any children who have high lead levels in the blood, using diagnostic testing, nurse visits and environmental assessments in the home.

In addition, the funds will be used for an independent study of the issue.

At his next formal budget meeting with the Legislature, Snyder will propose further long-term funding on February 10.

Experts from the City of Flint, the State of Michigan, and the City of Flint, State of Michigan, the University of Michigan–Flint, City of Flint, State of Michigan, the University of Michigan–Flint, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are converting hundreds of hand-drawn plat maps and hand-written notes from the 1980s into digitized maps. The maps are intended to aid in targeting areas for attention. The digitized maps will be matched with parcel data from 2015 and then overlaid with United States Census data and infrastructure information to allow analysts to pinpoint which inhabited homes have lead service lines.

Estimates as to the number of lead service lines still in the ground range as high as 25,000. However, there are rumors that the number could be much higher because of the faulty records system and mismanagement.

In the city, fire stations are offering free bottled water and water filters. At Fire Station No.8 in Flint, a check by Spero News showed that volunteers and National Guard personnel were offering Brita brand water filters that attach to home faucets. The elements in these filters should be changed on an almost monthly basis, leading some citizens to wonder if these will also be provided free of charge to citizens.

Flint residents are still being charged for water they are told not to drink. A local resident told Spero News in an interview that he and his mother have not paid their water bill for the last three months in protest. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appeared to agree with Flint residents when he announced on January 19 that his office was initiating an investigation of the failure to adequately treat Flint’s water.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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