FLINT, Mich. - The city of Flint has been granted an extra 24 hours to make a decision on where its drinking water is going to come from moving forward.
Last week a federal judge ordered the city to choose a long-term source of drinking water by Monday, as in Oct. 23. However, court documents filed Sunday showed City Council asked for a delay, saying they did not have enough time to make a decision without doing so "under duress."
On Monday, federal Judge David Lawson granted the City Council 24 more hours to make their decision. They have until "on or before the close of business on October 24, 2017."
The mass lead poisoning in Flint's drinking water supply appears to be under control. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has negotiated a 30-year lease with the Great Lakes Water Authority where the city's water could come from.
But the City Council does not like her choice and won't make a decision. That prompted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to sue Flint's City Council, which ultimately led to the federal judge's order for a decision by Oct. 23.
The suit filed Sunday claimed the city would be "forced under duress to decide on a long-term contract. Lawson was asked to either dismiss the lawsuit or give the City Council extra time so they can hire an expert to analyze three water supply options. That expert said an analysis would take 75 days.
'Breathtaking' failure of leadership
In his original order Lawson wrote Flint's City Council has committed a "breathtaking" failure of leadership in its dealings with the state of Michigan.
Flint has been getting water from Great Lakes Water since the lead disaster of 2015. The state says a long-term deal will keep Flint's water fund solvent and alleviate the need to raise rates.
Mayor Karen Weaver issued the following statement after Lawson's order:
"After months of research and consulting with experts, in April of this year I presented City Council, and the citizens of Flint, with a viable long-term and back-up water source recommendation. My recommendation, to continue getting our water from the Great Lakes Water Authority, proved to be in the best interest of public health by avoiding another water source switch, which could result in unforeseen issues.
"The recommendation I put forth would also avoid a projected 55 percent water rate increase and ensure the City of Flint gets millions of dollars to continue replacing lead tainted pipes, and make much-needed repairs to our damaged infrastructure, so we are able to deliver quality water to residents. The people of Flint have waited long enough for a reliable, permanent water source, and implementing my recommendation will provide that.
"I appreciate Judge Lawson for recognizing there is no need to wait to make a decision that could have, and should have, been made months ago. We can only hope that now City Council will put the people of Flint first, and comply with the judge’s order so we can move forward."
Michigan's chief medical executive could face manslaughter charge
Meanwhile, a special prosecutor said he'll add a charge of involuntary manslaughter against Michigan's chief medical executive in a criminal investigation of the Flint water crisis. Dr. Eden Wells was in court last week for a key hearing on other charges. But the hearing was postponed after the announcement by Todd Flood. The Associated Press reported Wells' lawyer couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Wells originally was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to an investigator. She will now face the additional charges of manslaughter and misconduct in office. Court is adjourned until Nov. 6.
Five other people have been charged with involuntary manslaughter tied to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area in 2014-15. The attorney general's office says key officials knew about a spike in Legionnaires' but failed to tell the public until January 2016.
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