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EPA warns of future problems with Flint water system

A collage of the Flint River
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Flint River (images on left), Flint Water Treatment Plant (images on right)

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency says Flint’s water system still faces major problems. EPA chief Gina McCarthy sent a warning to Governor Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.

The letter says the city’s water treatment plant is understaffed – and the water distribution network is too large and sprawling.

The letter says that means the city is not ready to switch to a new system that would withdraw untreated water from Lake Huron. City officials are still deciding whether they will stick with a plan to join the new KWA system in the spring of next year. 

“A lot of this stuff we’re already aware of,” said Anna Heaton, Gov. Snyder’s press secretary. “We’re working on it with the city.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said the letter shows the city needs more state and federal assistance to replace water lines. In a statement, Weaver wrote:

As far as staff and capacity, we’re dealing with the aftermath of the state-appointed emergency manager’s effort to cut costs, which resulted in a drastic reduction in staff at the water plant and beyond. We know we need additional staff to help our hard working employees at the plant do their jobs and carry out the city’s growing efforts to provide clean, safe water to the residents of Flint. Our current employees are getting the job done and administration is actively working to recruit additional experienced and qualified people for several posted positions. But we also need additional resources to pay experienced, qualified people. That’s money that must come from the state.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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