AP News Guide: Latest developments in Flint water crisis

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Posted: Jan 29, 2016 9:08 PM
AP News Guide: Latest developments in Flint water crisis

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Flint residents dealing with lead-contaminated water were warned Friday that water samples from more than two dozen locations have higher lead levels than can be treated by filters that have been widely distributed. They also will have more aid on the way after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder earlier signed into law $28 million more in emergency funding. The Republican governor said the funding will provide immediate resources in Flint, but is not the end of state assistance.

The city is under a public health emergency that has led to local, state and federal emergency declarations. Its drinking water became tainted after the city, under emergency state management, switched from the Detroit system and began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money. The water was not properly treated to keep lead from pipes from leaching into the supply. Some children's blood has tested positive for lead, which has been linked to learning disabilities and other problems.

Here are the latest developments in the Flint water crisis:

TESTS FIND SOME HIGH LEAD LEVELS

Dr. Nicole Lurie of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the lead level in some Flint locations has exceeded 150 parts per billion, which is the level for which water filters are graded. In one case, it was in the thousands. She said people with levels over 150 ppb were being notified and their water being retested.

"We aren't completely sure" why the readings are so high, Lurie said.

Tests began in the last week in December, and 26 sites out of about 4,000 showed the higher levels. The water was tested by officials before it got to a filter, and Lurie stressed that the results do not mean officials think there's a problem with the filters.

Officials stressed that pregnant women and children under 6 at the sites with the elevated lead levels should only drink and prepare food with bottled water. How many people in the city who have been using the tap water, even with filters, is unclear.

Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech expert who had a critical role in uncovering the lead problem last year, said he's not surprised by the high readings.

"They were without corrosion control for 18 months," he said. "The system is still recovering."

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STATE WORKERS GOT BOTTLED WATER

Emails released by a liberal group critical of Snyder show the state was providing water coolers at a state building in Flint as far back as January 2015, though residents were told the tap water was safe to drink until last fall.

Lonnie Scott of Progress Michigan says Snyder's administration was taking care of employees while Flint residents were being told to not worry about tap water. Snyder told WWJ-AM he had "no knowledge of that taking place."

Snyder's spokesman Dave Murray said Friday the water coolers placed near public drinking fountains on each floor were for both employees and visitors. Murray said he didn't know if workers promoted that it was available, but no signs prohibited the public from drinking water from the cooler.

He said the water was first provided as concerns were rising about the city's water system, but before lead was discovered in it. It was provided until early last summer, and then again in October after a public health emergency was declared, Murray said.

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SNYDER SIGNS AID BILL

The $28 million in the bill Snyder signed Friday is intended to pay for bottled water, faucet filters, testing kits, additional school nurses, medical treatment and to help the city with unpaid water bills.

It's the second round of state aid for the city since the crisis was confirmed in the fall, bringing the total allocated to nearly $39 million. The Republican governor said the funding will provide immediate resources in Flint, but is not the end of state assistance.

There also is funding to hire outside experts to assess whether Flint's water system infrastructure must be replaced or repaired.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate have proposed up to $400 million in emergency federal aid for Flint — contingent on the state matching the funds dollar for dollar. The Senate could vote as early as next week on the proposal.

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GOVERNOR UNDER PRESSURE

Snyder says he's focused on resolving Flint's crisis with lead-tainted drinking water, despite vocal critics saying his administration disregarded warning signs and didn't act quickly enough.

Snyder told radio station WWJ-AM he was heckled Thursday night at a restaurant. Laura Tanner told The Ann Arbor News that she and a friend gave Snyder an earful at the Old Town Tavern. She says she yelled "How was your water? Was it clean?"

The Republican governor says "other things like that have been going on for some time now." Protesters have also been rallying outside Snyder's residence, and there have been longshot efforts to recall him from office.

Snyder has accepted responsibility for the emergency while also blaming state and federal environmental regulators, some of whom have resigned or have been suspended.

"It's time to stand up and recognize that things could have been done differently," Snyder said before signing the aid legislation Friday. "Mistakes were made. ... We're going to solve them."

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