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Flint mayor asks county for support of emergency declaration

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A push to declare a state of emergency in Flint is running into some pushback.

Mayor Karen Weaver called for the declaration this week. She says the city needs state and federal help to repair its problem-plagued water system.

Flint’s water system is antiquated. In 2014, partly to save money, the city switched from Detroit water to the Flint River for its drinking water.

But the corrosive river water damaged pipes and led to increased lead levels in the drinking water. The city switched back to Detroit water this fall, but researchers still say people should not drink it unfiltered.      

Weaver announced her state of emergency declaration Monday night. But for it to move forward, she’s asking the Genesee County Commissioners to back the city’s declaration.

“We’re looking for resources. We need some help, and I hope they will approve it,” says Weaver. 

The mayor would like Genesee County Commissioners to hold a special meeting this month to back her call to declare a state of emergency in Flint.

But Genesee County Commission Chair Jamie Curtis isreluctant. He says he hasn’t seen the paperwork yet and he wants to make sure it doesn’t just repeat the health emergency declaration the county declared in October. 

Curtis admits he’s frustrated with the way Flint’s mayor has handled this request.

“I don’t know what it is that Weaver wants me to do when she doesn’t call me … have a meeting with me,” says Curtis.

Curtis says he’s open to taking up the state of emergency declaration next month.  

In the end, it will be up to Gov. Rick Snyder to decide whether to declare a disaster in Flint.

The governor’s office issued this statement:

“Flint residents deserve safe, clean water, and the Governor’s Office continues to work with Mayor Weaver. We also are working with the bipartisan Flint Water Task Force that the governor appointed to review the city, state and federal actions regarding the water infrastructure challenges and health concerns. The task force also is expected to offer recommendations on what each level can do moving forward to address these issues in Flint and potentially other areas in our state.”

Recent tests showed a small number of Flint residents have elevated blood lead levels.  

Researchers are concerned though that many people in Flint may have consumed lead-tainted water for many months before switching to bottled water. The results of that exposure may not be seen for years.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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