Flint returning to Detroit water amid lead concerns

Story highlights

  • Flint, Michigan, went off the Detroit system last year and began to draw its water from the Flint River
  • Two weeks ago, a medical study showed the percentage of Flint children with elevated lead levels had nearly doubled
  • Gov. Rick Snyder will ask the legislature to cover half the cost to reconnect Flint to Detroit's system

(CNN)The city of Flint, Michigan, will return to Detroit's water system because of concerns over water quality -- including lead exposure -- after the city made a switch last year, Flint's mayor said Thursday.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said he will ask the legislature to provide $6 million to cover the estimated $12 million cost to reconnect Flint to Detroit's water system.
This is "the fastest way" to protect public health, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling told reporters at a news conference.
    Flint residents have been complaining about odd-colored water for months after the city began drawing its supply from the Flint River rather than stay with the Detroit system, which draws from Lake Huron, WDIV reported.
    Thursday's announcement comes more than two weeks after a study by researchers at Flint's Hurley Medical Center, according to CNN affiliate WDIV, showed that the percentage of Flint children with elevated lead levels nearly doubled after the city stopped using the Detroit water system.
    In response to this study, Flint Public Schools turned off their taps and water fountains for students in September, CNN affiliate WEYI reported.
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    A separate study published online in September by Virginia Tech researchers found that water from the Flint River was highly corrosive to lead piping, releasing over 10 times more lead into the city's taps than the previous water supply.
    A public health emergency was declared last week after the governor acknowledged that "it appears that (water) lead levels could be higher or have increased," according to an advisory issued by the Genesee County Board of Commissioners.
    On Thursday, Flint's mayor commended the local medical community for its work in exposing the harm done to children and called the realization "devastating."
    "I could hardly sleep knowing that our youngest and most vulnerable children could be at greater risk if precautionary steps were not taken," Walling said.
    The water-system switch is being made under the guidance of a state emergency manager and was meant to be temporary -- an effort to save costs as the city worked to create its own path to the clean water of the Great Lakes to the north, according to WDIV.
    Speaking to reporters Thursday, state health department director Nick Lyon urged Flint residents to only drink water that had been tested or filtered by approved devices, in line with guidance issued by the governor's office in recent weeks.
    Over 6,000 filters had been delivered for free to members of the community by state agencies since Monday, Lyon said. But as WDIV reported, Flint residents often have relied on charity organizations and the kindness of strangers for potable water in recent months.
    Walling thanked county and state agencies as well as organizations including the United Way for their help during the crisis.
    "The effort to provide filters and water will continue to ensure that every home has a line of defense against the problems in the infrastructure, the service liens and older plumbing, while changes continue to be made," the mayor said.