Task Force Points to Officials' Inaction in Flint Water Crisis

Bottles of drinking water sit in front of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder as he testifies before a House Oversight and government Reform hearing on "Examining Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan, Part III" on Capitol Hill in Washington March 17. Reuters

DETROIT (Reuters) - A task force appointed by Michigan's governor said on Wednesday that state officials showed stubbornness, lack of preparation, delay and inaction in failing to prevent a health crisis in the city of Flint caused by lead contamination in the drinking water.

There were failures on all levels of government, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a report from the task force said. However, the report highlighted failures of state agencies, especially the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has been criticized for the state's poor handling of a crisis that garnered national headlines.

"Flint water customers were needlessly and tragically exposed to toxic levels of lead and other hazards through the mismanagement of their drinking water supply," the task force said in the report.

The 116-page report included 36 findings and 44 recommendations to be taken so the state can avoid a similar crisis in the future.

Michigan this week outlined a plan involving several state agencies to help the city recover from the crisis. It included programs to address water infrastructure shortcomings and the health of children who have tested for high lead levels in their blood, expand support in Flint schools and boost economic development for the city.

The crisis has led to calls for Snyder to resign. Last week, several Democratic lawmakers criticized the governor during testimony he provided at a hearing about the situation at Flint, a working class, mostly African American city of 100,000 northwest of Detroit.

Under the direction of a state-appointed emergency manager, Flint switched water supplies to the Flint River from Detroit's system in 2014 to save money.

The corrosive river water leached lead, a toxic substance that can damage the nervous system, from the city's water pipes. The city switched back to the Detroit system last October.

The crisis has led to several lawsuits in state and federal courts, and federal and state investigations.