Flint Water Crisis: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's Sweeping Plan Gets Reality Check Just days after Gov. Rick Snyder outlined a plan to target Flint's short-term, intermediate- and long-term needs, a task force that he appointed blamed his administration for much of the problem.
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Gov. Snyder's Sweeping Plan For Flint Water Crisis Gets A Reality Check

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Gov. Snyder's Sweeping Plan For Flint Water Crisis Gets A Reality Check

Gov. Snyder's Sweeping Plan For Flint Water Crisis Gets A Reality Check

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Michigan's governor, Rick Snyder, outlined his sweeping plan earlier this week for dealing with the city of Flint's drinking water crisis. And just a few days later, a task force that he appointed put most of the blame on him, his appointees and two state agencies for Flint's lead-tainted water. Steve Carmody of Michigan Radio reports.

STEVE CARMODY, BYLINE: People in Flint are still lining up for bottled water. Two years ago, the city switched its drinking water source to the Flint River, but the water wasn't properly treated, damaging city pipes, which have been leaching lead into the drinking water ever since.

But Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says he has a plan. On Monday, he released a 75-point plan to target short-term, intermediate-term and long-term needs in Flint.

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RICK SNYDER: I want to solve the problem in Flint, so that's my focal point, so that's where - one thing I learned today is - glad to get 75 points out there that we're going to work on putting in place.

SIMON: The plan includes goals for blood lead level testing for children, mobile nutritional centers and higher lead testing standards for local water systems. Some of the short-term items in the governor's plan are already underway, but many others are unfunded or lack specifics. And in Flint, some residents are frustrated that the plan doesn't call for immediately removing all lead service lines. Flint City Council president Kerry Nelson calls it more of a Christmas list than an actual plan.

KERRY NELSON: Is it the best effort he can make? No. I think there's some terms that's very vague and it's going be a long road before we get to them. And time at this junction is not on our side because we need to start digging up and remove all lead-lined service lines.

CARMODY: Flint has started digging up the suspect lead service lines but only about a dozen of the estimated 8,000 lead lines have been replaced so far. Just as the governor started promoting his 75-point plan to fix Flint, his office received a rebuke from a task force he appointed to examine the city's water crisis.

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CHRIS KOLB: This morning, we are releasing publicly our final report.

CARMODY: On Wednesday, the task force primarily blamed state government, including the governor's office, for Flint's water crisis. Task force co-chair Chris Kolb.

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KOLB: I've been asked several times what caused this, and I think I personally have said that it was a mixture of ignorance, incompetence and arrogance by many decision-makers. They created a toxic and tragic situation that produced the Flint water crisis.

CARMODY: Singled out for criticism is Michigan's emergency manager law. It was a state-appointed emergency manager who decided to switch the source of Flint's tap water to save money. And emergency managers long ignored residents' complaints about their tap water. The task force says Michigan's emergency manager law needs to be changed to allow for more checks and balances. Task force co-chair Ken Sikkema says it's part of a broader need for a cultural change in state government.

KEN SIKKEMA: Where you don't treat outside opinion as a threat. You use it as a way to reassess the official government position. That change has to occur throughout state government.

CARMODY: Governor Snyder listened uneasily as the task force delivered its report, then said the state is already implementing some of its recommendations, some of which are mirrored in his 75-point plan. But as all this occurs, Flint residents still want to know when they can again safely drink unfiltered water from their faucets. For NPR News, I'm Steve Carmody in Flint.

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