FLINT, Mich. (AP) – Federal, state and local officials said Wednesday that they will remain committed to fixing Flint’s drinking water system after a federal emergency declaration over the city’s lead crisis expires this month.
The declaration ends Aug 14, after which the state will bear the full cost of bottled water, filters and other water supplies being given to residents in the wake of tests that showed elevated levels of lead in the blood of some local children. But officials said federal resources, health programs and monitoring efforts will remain in place.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Acting Regional Administrator, Bob Kaplan, said the city’s water system is now among the best-monitored in the nation. While water quality is improving, he said the end of the declaration doesn’t change their focus.
“We won’t be at the finish line until testing can confirm that Flint residents are receiving safe, clean drinking water,” Kaplan said in a statement.
President Barack Obama in January signed an emergency declaration authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide water resources and support to state and local efforts.
“Filters, replacement cartridges and bottled water will continue to be distributed at no charge,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said. “Other support services that have been in put in place will continue as well.”
Nutrition, health care and behavioral health programs also will continue, including the Medicaid expansion that’s in place. State police Capt. Chris Kelenske, the deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said Aug. 14 “is just a date on the calendar.”
Since January, FEMA has provided millions of gallons of bottled water, more than 243,000 water filter replacement cartridges, and about 50,000 water and pitcher filters. FEMA has been paying 75 percent of the cost for those items. After the declaration ends, the state will shoulder the cost.
Under the leadership of a state-appointed emergency manager, officials in April 2014 began using the Flint River as Flint’s water supply. State officials did not require that the river water be treated for corrosion, and lead from aging pipes and fixtures leached into Flint homes and businesses.
The poor, predominantly black city of nearly 100,000 city remained on that water supply for 18 months, despite complaints from residents. Lead contamination has been linked to learning disabilities and other problems.
Nine current or former state employees have been criminally charged in connection with the crisis and an investigation by the state attorney general’s office is ongoing.
Starting Aug. 25, federal agencies plan to host a series of community workshops to offer residents information about federal resources.
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