Mayor: Flint wa­ter ‘moral is­sue’

Cit­ing gov’s ‘cal­lous­ness’ in end­ing bot­tled sup­plies, Weaver weighs le­gal ac­tion

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY LEONARD N. FLEM­ING The Detroit News

Flint — A vis­i­bly irate Mayor Karen Weaver said her city is ex­plor­ing le­gal op­tions against Gov. Rick Sny­der and the state af­ter he told her “to get over” the end of wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion in the city — a char­ac­ter­i­za­tion the gover­nor’s of­fice dis­puted as in­ac­cu­rate.

In a hastily called news con­fer­ence in her mayor’s suite, Weaver said she met with Sny­der on Mon­day morn­ing in Lans­ing hop­ing to change his mind over his move ear­lier this month to stop pro­vid­ing bot­tled wa­ter to the var­i­ous “pods” across Flint.

The city de­clared a lead con­tam­i­na­tion state of emer­gency in De­cem­ber 2015, but Sny­der on April 6 cited nearly two years of test re­sults show­ing lead lev­els in city tap wa­ter be­low fed­eral stan­dards.

“We did not get very far in the con­ver­sa­tion be­cause one of the things the gover­nor ba­si­cally said was we need to get over it,” Weaver said of the meet­ing with Sny­der.

The mayor said pro­vid­ing wa­ter to the res­i­dents of Flint is a “moral is­sue” since the state’s emer­gency man­agers and en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tors were re­spon­si­ble for Flint’s lead-in-wa­ter cri­sis. The state gov­ern­ment needs to re-es­tab­lish trust in Flint, she said.

“They gave us their word that they would see us through this lead and gal­va­nized ser­vice line re­place­ment and that we would have pods stay open un­til then,” Weaver said. “And they backed out on what they said.”

But Sny­der spokes­woman Anna Heaton dis­agreed with the mayor’s de­scrip­tion of the meet­ing.

“It was a good dis­cus­sion about the city and state’s con­tin­ued part­ner­ship, and an of­fer for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment help, since the mayor brought the city’s new eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cial with her to the meet­ing,” Heaton said.

“State tax­pay­ers could have ceased fund­ing the PODs last Septem­ber, but af­ter a re­quest from the city the gover­nor opted to keep them open . ... They re­mained open a full seven months past when the state could have ceased fund­ing them. This was done in or­der to help with the con­tin­ued part­ner­ship with the city, and to fos­ter trust with res­i­dents as the wa­ter qual­ity con­tin­ued to im­prove.”

In his ear­lier an­nounce­ment, Sny­der said the state has “worked dili­gently to re­store the wa­ter qual­ity and the sci­en­tific data now proves the wa­ter sys­tem is sta­ble and the need for bot­tled wa­ter has ended.”

Weaver said the gover­nor in the 35-minute meet­ing wanted to dis­cuss eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, but she told him the bot­tled wa­ter is­sue wasn’t go­ing away.

An­gela Wheeler, the le­gal coun­sel for Flint, said “we do have to ex­plore all pos­si­bil­i­ties” re­gard­ing whether they in­tend to sue the state. Heaton said the gover­nor’s of­fice doesn’t dis­cuss lit­i­ga­tion or po­ten­tial lit­i­ga­tion.

Weaver has con­tended that the state should wait un­til all of the city’s lead ser­vice lines are re­placed, which would in­vari­ably end when Sny­der leaves of­fice early next year.

The gover­nor dis­agreed, she said. Sny­der “showed an ex­tra layer of cal­lous­ness to­day” to­ward her and Flint, Weaver said.

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