DETROIT (Reuters) - Michigan’s government on Monday released goals to help the city of Flint recover from a health crisis caused by the lead contamination of its drinking water.
The plan, involving several state agencies, is meant to address water infrastructure shortcomings and the health of children who have tested for high lead levels in their blood, expand support in Flint schools and boost economic development for the city, Governor Rick Snyder said.
The crisis has attracted national attention and led to calls for Snyder to resign due to the state’s handling of the situation. Last week, several Democratic lawmakers criticized Snyder during testimony he provided at a hearing about the situation at Flint, a mostly black city of 100,000 northwest of Detroit.
Key parts of Michigan’s plan include professional support from state health officials for children under 6 with high levels of lead in their blood, opening three additional child health centers in the city, and replacing drinking water faucets and fixtures in public facilities, including schools, daycare centers and elder care homes, Snyder’s office said.
It also includes continued replacement of lead service lines in the city’s water system; increased resources for the schools, including the addition of nine school nurses; expansion of a free breakfast program; screening for children’s behavioral needs; development of home mortgage financing options for undervalued homes; and training for at least 500 residents to achieve long-term employment by the end of 2017.
Under the direction of a state-appointed emergency manager, Flint switched water supplies to the Flint River from Detroit’s system in 2014, to save money.
The corrosive river water leached lead, a toxic substance that can damage the nervous system, from the city’s water pipes. The city switched back to the Detroit system last October.
The crisis has led to several lawsuits in state and federal courts, and federal and state investigations.
On Monday, Snyder said the state was committed to addressing both short- and long-term needs of the city’s residents.
“Many departments have been involved in addressing the immediate crisis in whatever way they could,” he said in a statement. “At the same time, they have been working on longer-term plans.”
State officials said the plan can be modified as new needs arise.
Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn