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U.S. Senate approves bill that could provide more money for Flint water crisis

Work crew replacing a lead service line in Flint.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Work crew replacing a lead service line in Flint.

The U.S. Senate has approved a $10 billion water projects bill that includes money for Flint, Michigan - nearly a year after a public health emergency was first declared there because of lead-contaminated water.

Senators approved the bill by a 95-3 vote. It goes to the House, where approval of a similar bill - minus the Flint provision - is expected as soon as next week.

“The people of Flint have waited too long. They cannot wait any longer and we must take action,” U.S. Senator Gary Peters, D-MI, said today.

The bipartisan measure would authorize 29 projects in 18 states for dredging, flood control and other projects overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Senate version of the bill includes $100 million in grants and loans to replace lead-contaminated pipes in cities with lead emergencies.

So far, Flint is the only one that’s had such designation.

The bill provides $50 million to test water for lead in schools and $70 million for water infrastructure loans, according to the Associated Press.

The Senate version gives the state of Michigan the authority to forgive roughly $20 million in existing debt the city of Flint owes on its water plant. It also requires U.S. EPA officials to warn the public within 15 days of knowing of high lead levels in other communities.

It's been almost a year since Genesee County declared a public health emergency because of the water. Researchers say it is now safe to drink with a filter. Free bottled water is still available.

Governor Rick Snyder and other others praised the Senate vote and urged the House to act quickly to pass the bill.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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