FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Flint reconnected to Detroit’s water system Friday in hopes of resolving a health emergency spurred by a switch to river water that was aimed at saving money but left children with elevated lead levels.
The city said Detroit water would be introduced into the system through the evening, with a complete replacement happening in about three weeks. It comes a day after Gov. Rick Snyder approved millions toward the $12 million that returning to Detroit’s system will cost through June.
“The money from the state to begin fixing Flint water by reconnecting to Detroit is just a start – a down payment,” Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said in a statement. “I am not going to stop until every drop of drinking water in Flint is 100 percent safe.”
Flint, a city of about 99,000 people, stopped getting its water from Detroit’s system last year in a cost-cutting move. Using the Flint River was supposed to be an interim source until the city can join a new system getting water from Lake Huron that’s scheduled to be completed next year.
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Residents complained about the smell, taste and appearance of the river water, and reported adverse health reactions. A General Motors plant stopped using the water because it was causing excessive rust.
Officials long maintained that the water met safety standards, but the state recently corroborated findings of elevated lead levels in children and disclosed higher lead amounts in three Flint schools. Lead, a metal that can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities, is just the latest issue. There have been high levels of a disinfectant byproduct. Increased bacteria levels forced boil-water advisories. Local schools have urged students to avoid fountains.
The Flint River is more corrosive than Detroit’s water from Lake Huron and, because controls were not implemented, the river water picked up lead from aging pipes that connect water mains to houses and businesses. Officials say Detroit water contains corrosion control agents to hinder the release of lead from old pipes, and Flint plans to add more of the agents.
Officials said Flint residents might still see discoloration or notice some taste and odor issues during the transition back to Detroit water as the city’s primary interim source.
Of the cost to rejoin the network, Flint will pay $2 million, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has pledged $4 million. Snyder approved $9.3 million in water-related aid that includes money for home water filters, inspections, health services and lab testing.
Federal environmental officials said earlier Friday they established a task force that will include federal scientists and technicians, and the Environmental Protection Agency would ask Snyder and Walling to designate officials to serve as contacts. The Flint Safe Drinking Water Task Force will provide technical advice and members will be available to consult with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Flint on-site.