Protesters in Flint demand new pipes in response to water crisis

FLINT, Mich. More than 500 protesters led by civil rights activist Jesse Jackson marched to the Flint water plant on Friday to demand clean water and the replacement of corroding pipes in response to the city’s lead contamination crisis.

“This is a crime scene. Somebody lied. Somebody lied. Somebody covered up. We want water we can drink,” Jackson said.

As a cost-cutting measure in 2014, Flint switched its water system from Detroit to a local river. The more corrosive water from the river leached lead from water system pipes, leading to high levels of lead in hundreds of homes.

The lead contamination – which could have been prevented with anti-corrosion treatment of the water – has become a national political scandal as emails and documents have emerged showing that Michigan officials tried to play down the problem for months.

Jackson was accompanied by ministers from the group Concerned Pastors for Social Action; Judge Greg Mathis, a syndicated television personality; and Flint mother and activist Melissa Mays.

“Thank you for coming out to march with Flint, for Flint and for yourselves, because be aware that if it can happen here it will and is happening everywhere else,” Mays told the crowd before the march began.

Some people sold “Flint Lives Matters” T-shirts and handed out bottles of water to marchers.

Governor Rick Snyder asked state lawmakers last week to provide $195 million for health, nutritional, educational, water bill payment and infrastructure aid to Flint on top of $37 million already approved for the current and fiscal 2017 budget.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has said Snyder’s allocation of $25 million to remove lead pipes falls short of the estimated $55 million price tag. Snyder pledged an additional $2 million to remove lead pipes on Thursday.

The Republican governor, who has faced sharp criticism for his response to the problem, has been called to testify on the matter before a U.S. congressional committee next month. The issue has also become a focus of the U.S. presidential campaign.

(Reporting by Serena Maria Daniels in Flint; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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