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Gov. Snyder names state point-man for Flint water crisis

State of Michigan

One man will lead the state’s efforts to deal with Flint’s water crisis.

Harvey Hollins is the director of the Office of Urban Initiatives. Gov. Snyder has appointed Hollins to oversee the state agencies responding to Flint’s water crisis. 

Errors in how the water was treated (actually, how it wasn't treated) are blamed for unhealthy levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water going undetected for months. 

State agencies insisted for more than a year that Flint’s drinking water was safe, after a switch from Detroit water to the Flint River. Outside groups disagreed, tracing rising lead levels in Flint tap water to the corrosive Flint River. Eventually, the state helped pay for the city to temporarily return to Detroit water. 

But experts say the city’s tap water is not safe to drink. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have been working with local agencies to respond to the ongoing crisis.

Hollins’ appointment follows a recommendation from the governor’s Flint water task force. The panel issued an interim list of recommendations this week. The task force says someone needs to coordinate state health and environmental agencies’ activities.    

In a letter to the task force, Gov. Snyder describes Hollins as “well-versed” in the challenges facing Michigan cities.  

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver welcomes the announcement.

“It should help to have one person be the point person because then you shouldn’t lose track of things.  They shouldn’t fall through the cracks,” says Weaver.   

Not everyone is happy with the governor's choice.

“Political appointees and public relations people are what got us into this mess, and they aren’t who we need leading us out of it,” says Flint State Senator Jim Ananich, “Anything less than a professional trained in emergency management or public health will not suffice.'

Ananich says he would like to see someone appointed from the Michigan State Police, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Department of Homeland Security.

The governor's Flint water task force also says there is a need to establish goals and set timelines now for fixing Flint’s water woes. 

The panel’s final report on Flint’s water crisis is due next year.

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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