News / USA

    Michigan Governor Apologizes to Flint, Promises Water Fixes

    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate, at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Jan. 19, 2016.
    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate, at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Jan. 19, 2016.
    Ken Bredemeier

    The governor of the U.S. state of Michigan apologized Tuesday to residents in the city of Flint who have been dealing with high levels of lead in their water supply for nearly two years.

    Governor Rick Snyder said state and federal environmental agencies failed to identify and solve the problem after it emerged in April 2014, and that he has replaced the state officials with people who understand the severity of the situation.

    "Government failed you, federal, state and local leaders, by breaking the trust you placed in us," Snyder said during his annual State of the State address.

    He promised to continue deliveries of water and filters so that everyone in the city has clean water.  

    The governor said the state has already dedicated $9 million to the project and that he is asking for another $28 million for bottled water, replacing fixtures in schools and treating children with elevated lead levels.

    Also Tuesday, President Barack Obama named Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dr. Nicole Lurie to coordinate federal assistance to Flint.

    With a toxic water crisis gripping the city of Flint, protesters gather outside the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., before Gov. Rick Snyder's State of the State address, Jan. 19, 2016.
    With a toxic water crisis gripping the city of Flint, protesters gather outside the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., before Gov. Rick Snyder's State of the State address, Jan. 19, 2016.

    As Obama headed Wednesday to Detroit, Michigan to celebrate the re-emergence of the U.S. auto industry, a White House spokesman said Obama was "concerned" that such a self-inflicted public health issue as the one in Flint could occur in the United States.  But Obama had no plans to visit Flint, a city not far from Detroit.

    "Clearly, primary responsibility lies with state and local officials,'' White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.  "But that is not stopping this president and the administration from doing what they can."

    He said the government's emergency relief agency is in Flint handing out water filters and bottled water.

    Obama's appointment of Lurie to oversee the federal response to the Flint disaster came after he met with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver to hear firsthand how residents are dealing with the crisis.

    Weaver also met with Obama's senior adviser and his intergovernmental affairs director on Tuesday.  The White House says the officials assured Weaver that the federal government would be a "constructive partner'' in the city's response and recovery.

    Financially strapped Flint was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its source of tap water from Detroit's system to the more corrosive water in the nearby Flint River in April 2014 to save money.

    The Flint River water leached lead from city pipes more than Detroit water did, leading to elevated levels of lead in the water and the blood of some children.  Flint resumed using Detroit water, which comes from Lake Huron, in October.  But the corroded pipes continue to be a problem and may have to be replaced.  Many residents are relying on bottled water.

    Chris Hannas contributed to this report.

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