Michigan gov: ‘I will fix’ Flint water crisis

Getty Images

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) vowed Tuesday night to help end the drinking water crisis affecting residents of Flint, Mich. 

In his State of the State address, Snyder took responsibility for the emergency in Flint, where lead levels in the drinking water have spiked since officials switched the water source to a local river to cut costs. 

“I’m sorry, most of all, that I let you down. You deserve better, you deserve accountability, you deserve the know that the buck stops here with me,” he said in his speech. 

“You deserve the know the truth, and I have a responsibility to tell the truth — the truth about what we’ve done and the truth about what we’ll do to overcome this challenge.”

Snyder has declared an emergency in the city and deployed the National Guard to help distribute drinking water there. President Obama has declared a federal emergency in Flint, opening the door to funding from the government and staffing support for residents. 

But Snyder promised even more Tuesday night, including a slate of fixes he hopes to fund in a budget request he’ll soon send to the Legislature. 

The budget wish list includes funding for replacing corroded water pipes and fixtures in Flint, testing and treatment for children with high lead levels, a study of the city’s water infrastructure and aid for its utilities. 

“I know apologies won’t make up for the mistakes that were made, but I take full responsibility to fix the problem so it never happens again,” he said. 

Snyder’s handling of the Flint situation has been roundly criticized, but the governor has said he’s aware of both the problems facing the city and the complaints against him. 

The governor’s proposals didn’t go far enough for some. After the speech, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said the plan “fell short of what is needed” for Flint and that the state needs to create a long-term fund to help children who suffer health problems due to the water. 

“On the federal level, I will continue working with the administration and my colleagues in Congress to leverage available resources from various federal agencies,” he said.

“However, the state has a moral obligation to make Flint whole with substantial — and continued — investments in fixing this problem in both the short and long-term.”  

Snyder also said the federal government may have a bigger role to play in helping fix the situation. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Tuesday it would be leading the federal response to Flint’s problems. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) discussed the matter with HHS Secretary Sylvia BurwellSylvia Mathews BurwellHHS projects 13.8M ObamaCare signups for 2017 Republicans demand documents from insurers on ObamaCare 'bailout' Top health officials: Funding delay hurt Zika response MORE on Tuesday, his office said, pledging to “continue communication and cooperation in the coming days and weeks.” 

“I expressed to Secretary Burwell the urgency of the situation and she assured me that they want to work with Michigan to get done right … and quickly,” he said in a statement.  

Snyder indicated Congress, too, might need to get involved before the issue is resolved. 

“To the members of our congressional delegation who are here tonight, we must work together to solve” the crisis, he said. “I look forward to working with you to bring additional support from the federal government to the people of Flint.”

This post was last updated on Jan. 20 at 9:56 a.m.