The state of Michigan will pay all Flint water bills in May to encourage the flushing of lead from old pipes and the recoating of plumbing with a corrosion chemical.
Gov. Rick Snyder made the announcement Thursday at a news conference with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, who unveiled an advertising campaign urging residents to run cold water for 10 minutes a day for two weeks.
"Essentially, May will be a free water month," Snyder said. "With respect to the water portion of the water and sewer bill, there won't be a charge."
The state already was covering roughly two-thirds of the water portion by providing a credit for use from April 2014, when the city switched to the Flint River while under state emergency management, until the water is declared safe to drink again without a filter. Residents have been using faucet filters and bottled water while enduring the monthslong emergency.
The flushing strategy began May 1. For 14 days, residents are encouraged to run cold water at the highest flow from their bathtub for five minutes and from their kitchen faucet for five minutes, with the filter removed or bypassed.
It will cost the state an estimated $1.7 million, depending on participation.
Flint, which has about 100,000 residents, is still recovering from using the Flint River for 18 months without corrosion controls. The water leached lead from pipes. The city switched back to another source in October.
Experts last month warned that people leery of using the water weren't running enough of it to rid the system of toxic lead, slowing the efforts to clean out lead deposits and recoat the pipes and plumbing to make them safe again.
"The flushing program is another necessary step to fixing the city's broken water system," Weaver said.
Longer term, she has committed to replacing thousands of lead services lines that connect water mains to homes and businesses.
The state has allocated at least $2 million for the initiative, and the Republican governor — who has apologized for his administration's failures related to the water crisis — is asking lawmakers for $25 million more.
Eggert reported from Lansing, Michigan.