LANSING, MI – Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said on Tuesday, Jan. 23 that the water quality in the city of Flint has improved dramatically over the past several months, citing test results that place the amount of lead in the city’s water at six parts per billion – a result that Snyder says is comparable to most other cities in Michigan.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) waves to members of the state House of Representatives and Senate before delivering his eighth and final State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 23. (Andrew Roth | Flint Beat)

“We have been testing and monitoring the water, and the quality has gotten better. We’re really proud of that. We’re still testing, though, and we still have some testing to do right now,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in response. “What just started this past weekend was testing the schools. So we have some more rounds to go, and we’re hoping for some positive results, but we’re not quite through yet.”

Snyder’s remarks came as part of his eighth and final State of the State address as the governor of Michigan.

“We are continuing to work hard in terms of educational efforts and health efforts to help young people, and all people, in Flint in particular,” Snyder added. “We need to do more statewide. We are going to continue to work on having the right lead and copper rule that can be a role model for the rest of our country.”

“There’s no question that we need to update the lead and copper rules of the state. I think we should be leading the country and pushing the EPA to update the lead and copper rules nationally,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said after delivering the Democratic response to the governor’s address. “The problem is that for over two years now, the governor has been saying that these rules are going to be coming forward. Families are still operating under what he calls the ‘dumb and dangerous’ rule. He’s waited almost two years for something that he’s referred to as dumb and dangerous. I don’t understand what the delay is.”

Beyond updating the state’s lead and copper regulations, Snyder says that he will use the next week to introduce a series of policy initiatives focused on the environment and infrastructure. Among those proposals will be a water infrastructure bill package.

“We have too many cases where we have had major breaks in metro Detroit, we’ve got pollution showing up in our lakes and rivers coming out of sewer systems, more needs to be done,” Snyder said.

Water quality isn’t the only thing that has improved in the city, Snyder says. The city’s economy has, too.

“I’d also like to highlight in Flint some great economic development achievements going on and how we are all partnering together in teamwork to bring jobs to Flint,” the governor said. “I want to thank some great companies. Lear has brought over 400 new jobs to Flint recently. General Motors just announced the new engine coming to be built in Flint. A fabulous project if you haven’t been there yet is the Ferris Wheel Building. It’s about entrepreneurship and innovation and it won a top award as one of the sixth most impactful economic development projects in the entire country so we are seeing progress there.”

Weaver, who attended the address, thanked the governor for discussing the city’s recent economic developments.

“I was glad to hear that the governor continued to talk about economic development opportunities for the city of Flint,” the mayor said. “That’s one of the things that we’ve really been pushing for – we’ve talked about moving from crisis to recovery, and we know one of the things that’s going to help us recover and be stronger are economic opportunities for our citizens.”

Flint’s representative in the state House, Phil Phelps (D-Flushing), says that what the governor said in his address does not align with what he is seeing happen on the ground in Flint.

“The things that scare me more than how little time was spent on Flint in the speech tonight is the actions and words of his administration that’s actually running the recovery efforts right now. All of last week we were getting urgent calls from panicked members of the education community and doctors in our community saying that some of the governor’s employees, like Rich Baird, were trying to threaten them to do certain types of testing in a certain way or else they would stop bottled water service for all the people in Flint,” Phelps said. “That’s kind of been a running theme for the last few months; they keep using bottled water as the carrot on the end of a stick, and all the signs point to them getting rid of that. All the experts on this water situation have said that if they’re still working on the water lines in an area not to drink that water. We know now that it’s going to be closer to 2020 until things are done. To stop the bottled water now, at the beginning of 2018, would be absolutely horrible for the people that live in the city of Flint.”

Michigan will hold an election to name its next governor on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Rick Snyder, the Republican incumbent, cannot seek reelection due to constitutional term limits. Republican voters will decide between Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, state Senator Patrick Colbeck, or Dr. Jim Hines for their nominee, while the Democratic field consists of former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, former Director of the Detroit Health Department Abdul El-Sayed, former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs, and entrepreneur Shri Thanedar.

Andrew Roth is a reporter and photographer covering politics and policy in Michigan, as well technology, culture and their convergence. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first...