LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said he had failed Flint residents but pledged to take new steps to fix the city’s drinking water crisis, starting with committing millions in state funding and deploying more National Guard members.
The second-term Republican, who devoted most of his annual State of the State speech Tuesday night to the emergency in Flint, also pledged greater transparency. He said he would release on Wednesday his own emails regarding Flint’s water, which became contaminated with too much lead when the city switched its water source in 2014 as a cost-cutting measure.
“I’m sorry most of all that I let you down,” Snyder said in the 49-minute address, which came as his administration is engulfed in criticism from across the country and as hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the Capitol. “You deserve better. You deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me. Most of all, you deserve to know the truth, and I have a responsibility to tell the truth.”
The lead contamination — which can lead to behavior problems and learning disabilities in children and kidney ailments in adults — has left Flint residents unable to drink unfiltered tap water. The National Guard, state employees, local authorities and volunteers have been distributing lead tests, filters and bottled water. Snyder aides pledged that by the end of the week officials would visit every household in Flint to ensure they have water filters.
Democrats said Snyder only recently admitted the magnitude of the fiasco, at least three months too late.
“This is the kind of disaster, the kind of failure to deliver basic services that hurts people’s trust in government,” House Minority Leader Tim Greimel said.
In his speech, Snyder committed $28 million more in the short term to pay for more filters, bottled water, school nurses, intervention specialists, testing and monitoring — on top of $10.6 million allocated in the fall. The money also would replace plumbing fixtures in schools with lead problems and could help Flint with unpaid water bills.
The new round of funding, which requires approval from the GOP-led Legislature, is intended as another short-range step while Snyder works to get a better handle on the long-range costs. He plans to make a bigger request in his February budget proposal.
Snyder also announced the deployment of roughly 130 more National Guard members to the city and revealed his appeal of President Barack Obama’s denial of a federal disaster declaration for the area.
“To you, the people of Flint, I say tonight as I have before: I am sorry, and I will fix it,” he said.
Snyder, a former venture capitalist and computer executive who took office in 2011 billing himself as a practical decision-maker and a “tough nerd,” has rejected calls for his…