- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - State officials pledged $2 million Tuesday for Flint’s troubled water system, which has drawn complaints from residents and lost a major industrial customer over quality concerns.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration announced that the grants, from a program designed for financially distressed communities, will provide $900,000 to hire a contractor to perform a leak detection survey of city water lines. An additional $1.1 million will go toward shutting down the current Water Pollution Control Facility incinerator and replacing it with new facilities allowing for waste disposal in landfills.

City officials say the money is welcome and necessary to deal with the city’s aging infrastructure. Emergency Manager Jerry Ambrose said it will also free money for the city to accelerate the replacement of major pipelines, which he said will increase water circulation and improve quality.

He added the city is bringing in experts in the next couple weeks to evaluate its efforts and “make sure we’re doing what we need to do” with water treatment and improvements.

“The water today is within all acceptable guidelines - and that’s an improvement over where it was a couple months ago,” Ambrose said. “That says the water is safe. It doesn’t say the quality is acceptable, and that’s not acceptable to us.”

Flint gets water from the Flint River, but residents have complained about the smell, taste and appearance. They also have complained about rashes and other health problems. The city says the water is safe to drink, but the federal government has cited Flint for high levels of a disinfectant byproduct - a result of treating the water to kill microorganisms that can cause illness.

Residents with infants, older people and those with severely compromised immune systems also have been told to seek advice from a health care provider about drinking the water.

Flint cut ties last year with Detroit’s water system to save money and is building a line to Lake Huron that’s at least 16 months away.

A General Motors engine plant last year stopped using water from the Flint River after the automaker said it caused rusting on its engine parts. The decision is expected to cost the city about $400,000 per year in lost revenue.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee’s office and volunteers distributed thousands of gallons of bottled water at two locations, drawing hundreds of residents.

Loretta Cole was volunteering, and made sure she took some water home as well.

“The water in the toilet looked soapy,” said Cole, 80, who added she treats it with bleach. “It may be all right, but I don’t trust it.”

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