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Gov announces Flint water committee, fields questions about what he knew, when

Jan 11, 2016

Gov. Snyder continues to defend himself against questions about when he knew the extent of the Flint water crisis.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) announced the formation of a special city-state joint committee to examine Flint's drinking water crisis
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

On Monday, the governor was in Flint to announce the formation of a joint city-state panel to examine the city’s water crisis and ways to address it. 

The Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee will be composed of state officials with emergency management, environmental quality, health and human services, and other state agencies. Flint’s mayor and Genesee County officials will also be on the committee.

Snyder says the panel will “create an action plan, establish protocols for communications at the local, executive and legislative levels, make recommendations regarding the impact to health of the affected population, and “assess the status of infrastructure and determine feasible actions for upgrading Flint’s water system.”

“The real issue in front of us is, how do we address it, and how do we take care of the people of Flint?” the governor said at a news conference in Flint. 

But the main question reporters asked Snyder was when he knew the extent of the problem with lead contamination in Flint’s drinking water.

The Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee will be composed of state officials with emergency management, environmental quality, health and human services, and other state agencies. Flint’s mayor and Genesee County officials will also be on the committee.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city’s switch to the Flint River in 2014 started a chain of events that severely damaged the city’s water pipes. The pipes leached lead into the drinking water. The water remains unsafe to drink without a special filter even after switching to a less corrosive water source.

Snyder adamantly insists he was not aware of the extent of the problem until October 1, when state health officials confirmed a local study which showed elevated blood lead levels in Flint children tied to the time of the switch to the Flint River.

“I have a degree of responsibility,” Snyder says. “And that’s why we tried to be prudent about taking actions to address where those problems were and what those issues were.”

The governor formally declared a “state of emergency” in Flint last week. 

Snyder says state officials have been talking with FEMA about the situation in Flint. The federal emergency agency is working with the state to assess whether Flint’s drinking water crisis warrants a federal disaster declaration. A declaration could mean millions of dollars in federal aid. But Snyder says it could be weeks before the decision is made as to whether to seek the federal help. 

He notes that other requests for federal help came a month after ‘states of emergency’ were declared.

But State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, says he is tired of waiting. 

“We need these resources for the citizens of my community,” says Ananich. 

Tuesday, teams of state workers will begin fanning out across Flint, offering homeowners bottled water and filters. The man heading up the effort admits he doesn’t know how long it will take to knock on every door of people needing help in Flint.