Detroit Free Press: Peters and Stabenow: Progress made, but more work to do to help Flint

Too many families in Flint still can’t drink the unfiltered water that comes out of their faucets. After pushing congressional leaders for a year, we finally have achieved a major step forward in the long overdue — and needlessly difficult — fight to fix Flint’s water pipes.

It’s been too long that the people in Flint have had to figure out how to get safe water to their house every day for drinking, cooking and bathing.

It’s been too long for parents who continue to worry about their children and have to wonder if lead exposure played a role when their kids struggle in class or at home.

This has been and continues to be absolutely unacceptable.

Our package is a major step forward in Flint’s recovery. It will provide $100 million to help repair and replace corroded pipes, $50 million to address the urgent public health needs of children and families who have been exposed to lead, and authority for the State of Michigan to forgive about $20 million in loans Flint has received. In addition, our package includes $200 million in low-interest loans for other communities across Michigan and the country to replace their infrastructure, and requires the Environmental Protection Agency  to warn the public within 24 hours of high lead levels in drinking water if a state fails to do so.

This was a long, difficult fight, but we never gave up. When the public emergency was first declared, we teamed up with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, and went into action. We immediately reached out to President Barack Obama, who committed millions in federal resources to provide safe drinking water and to help Flint families with nutrition and health care services as well as other critical support.

The legislative fight began in January, when the three of us announced our bipartisan legislation to help Flint and other communities across our state and country. We focused the national spotlight on this legislation by stopping a major energy bill in the Senate from moving forward until we were able to build bipartisan support in order to underscore the urgency facing the people of Flint.

We hit plenty of roadblocks in the Senate along the way, and we had to battle last-minute challenges in the U.S. House of Representatives that nearly jeopardized this critical assistance.

Fortunately, our colleagues leading the Senate water resources bill — Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer of California — came forward and worked with us tirelessly throughout the year. There are few policy areas on which these two senators can agree — but both were absolutely critical in helping us get this over the finish line.

Now let us be clear — despite the major federal funding we have made available for Flint, the State of Michigan has the moral and legal obligation to provide new matching funds and complete the job. The families of Flint deserve the dignity and confidence that we all enjoy:  that when we turn on our faucet, the water is safe.

We remain committed to doing everything we can to help the community and families completely recover and move forward.

Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, represent Michigan in the U.S. Senate.

By:  Senator Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow
Source: Detroit Free Press