South Africa’s Cape Town faces severe economic troubles over drought

Sand blows across a normally submerged area at Theewaterskloof dam near Cape Town, South Africa, January 21, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Rating’s agency Moody’s warned on Monday the water crisis affecting Cape Town would cause the city’s borrowing to rise sharply and the provincial economy to shrink the longer the situation lasted.

A severe drought afflicting South Africa’s Western Cape province is expected to cut agricultural output by 20 percent in 2018, decimating the wheat crop and reducing apple, grape and pear exports to Europe, according to national government.

The City is bracing for “Day Zero” in late August when its taps could run dry.

Moody’s said in a report that one of the most direct impacts would be on Cape Town’s operating revenues, as 10 percent of them are from water charges.

The ratings agency estimates capital expenditure related to water and sanitation infrastructure could be as much as 12.7 billion rand ($1 billion) over the next five years.

“The long-term solutions are likely to require significant capital and operating expenditure,” Daniel Mazibuko, an analyst at Moody’s said.

The drought also threatens to slow South Africa’s economic rebound which has been fueled by a surge in agricultural production. Cape town generated nearly 10 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product in 2016.

Last Tuesday, Statistics South Africa said the economy grew 3.1 percent in October-December, the highest rate since the second quarter of 2016, after expanding by a revised 2.3 percent in the third quarter. Agriculture showed a 37.5 percent expansion after growing 41.1 percent in the previous quarter.

Government has declared drought a national disaster after its southern and western regions including Cape Town got hit hard by the drought, freeing extra funds to tackle the crisis.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia)

Dwindling hopes for Ecuador, death toll over 400

Ecuador's President Correa embraces a resident after the earthquake in the town of Canoa

y Julia Symmes Cobb and Ana Isabel Martinez

PEDERNALES/CANOA, Ecuador (Reuters) – Earthquake-stricken Ecuador faced the grim reality of recovering more bodies than survivors as rescue efforts went into a third day on Tuesday and the death toll climbed over 400 in the poor South American country.

Praying for miracles, distraught family members beseeched rescue teams to find missing loved ones as they dug through debris of flattened homes, hotels, and stores in the hardest-hit Pacific coastal region.

Meanwhile, a moved President Rafael Correa, visiting the disaster zone, said the quake had inflicted between $2 billion and $3 billion of damage on the OPEC nation’s already-fragile economy.

The damage from the quake could knock between two and three percentage points off gross domestic product growth, he told reporters. “Let’s not deceive ourselves, it’s going to be a long struggle … Reconstruction for years, billions (of dollars) in investment.”

In Pedernales, a devastated rustic beach town, crowds gathered behind yellow tape to watch firemen and police sift through rubble overnight. The town’s soccer stadium was serving as a makeshift relief center and a morgue.

“Find my brother! Please!” shouted Manuel, 17, throwing his arms up to the sky in front of a small corner store where his younger brother had been working when the quake struck.

When an onlooker said recovering a body would at least give him the comfort of burying his sibling, he yelled: “Don’t say that!”

But for Manuel and hundreds of other anxious Ecuadoreans with relatives missing, time was running out.

As of Tuesday, rescue efforts would become more of a search for corpses, Interior Minister Jose Serrano told Reuters.

The death toll stood at 413, but was expected to rise.

The quake has injured at least 2,600 people, damaged over 1,500 buildings, and left 18,000 people spending the night in shelters, according to the government.

In many isolated villages or towns struck by the quake, survivors struggled without water, power, or transport. Rescue operations continued, but the sickly, sweet stench of death told them what they were most likely to find.

“There are bodies crushed in the wreckage and from the smell it’s obvious they are dead,” said Army Captain Marco Borja in the small tourist village of Canoa.

“Today we brought out between seven and eight bodies.”

Nearly 400 rescue workers flew in from various Latin American neighbors, along with 83 specialists from Switzerland and Spain, to boost rescue efforts. The United States said it would dispatch a team of disaster experts while Cuba was sending a team of doctors.

To finance the costs of the emergency, some $600 million in credit from multilateral lenders was immediately activated, the government said.

Ecuador also announced late Monday it had signed off on a credit line for $2 billion from the China Development Bank to finance public investment. China has been the largest financier of Ecuador since 2009 and the credit had been under negotiation before the quake.

(Repoprting by Julia Symmes Cobb in Pedernales and Ana Isabel Martinez in Canoa; Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia and Diego Ore in Quito; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Lawsuit over Flint water crisis says 17 children have high lead levels

(Reuters) – A group of Flint, Michigan, parents and their children filed a class action on Monday alleging that gross negligence by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and others caused the city’s drinking water to become contaminated with lead.

The lawsuit was filed in Detroit federal court and seeks damages for a proposed class of “tens of thousands” of Flint residents and property owners who have suffered physical or economic injuries. The named plaintiffs are seven residents and their 17 children who lawyers say have heightened lead levels.

The state’s slow response to the water crisis drew sharp rebukes from Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on Sunday. Both called for Snyder’s resignation. A spokesman has said the Republican governor has no intention of stepping down.

Flint, a predominantly black city of 100,000, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its water source in April 2014 to the Flint River from Lake Huron. The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from city pipes and into the drinking water.

The city switched back last October after tests found high levels of lead in blood samples taken from children, but the drinking water has not returned fully to normal. Flint began replacing lead pipes running to homes on Friday.

Attorneys Hunter Shkolnik and Adam Slater allege in Monday’s lawsuit the governmental defendants failed to take measures required by federal law to eliminate the dangers and downplayed the severity of the contamination to residents.

Children are especially vulnerable to lead exposure, as even small amounts can stunt development, leading to lifelong academic and behavioral problems.

Current and former officials and workers in Michigan and Flint are named as defendants, along with engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, which was hired to assess the feasibility of using Flint River water.

A firm representative said the lawsuit mischaracterized its role and it would vigorously defend its position in court.

The lawsuit accuses the governmental defendants of gross negligence, which is an exception to the immunity that shields federal and state governments and employees from lawsuits over their official duties. The strength of the immunity defense has kept many leading plaintiffs’ lawyers away from filing lawsuits over the Flint crisis.

The families seek payment for past and future health costs and monitoring as well as compensation for lost property value, replacement of pipes and reclamation of contaminated property.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Anthony Lin and Matthew Lewis)

Michigan governor issues appeal over Flint funds denial

(Reuters) – Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has urged federal officials to reconsider their denial for funds to help deal with the crisis caused by lead-contaminated water in the city of Flint, his office said on Thursday.

The contamination and the state’s long delay in addressing the problem have sparked outrage and drawn attention from U.S. presidential candidates.

In the latest appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Snyder is requesting money to pay for food, water and other essential needs; the removal of health and safety hazards; activation of emergency operations centers; measures to avoid further damage; and homeowners’ repairs not covered by insurance.

A FEMA spokesman said Snyder’s appeal was under review by the agency.

The agency turned down an earlier request for financial help in January because the areas in which Snyder requested aid were deemed not appropriate, but has provided non-monetary support in the form of a FEMA coordinator.

Also in January, Snyder asked for federal declarations of emergency and major disaster. President Barack Obama approved the federal emergency declaration, but denied a major disaster declaration. Snyder appealed that decision and was denied.

Snyder said on Thursday that Flint needed continued local, state, federal and national efforts. “Assistance from our federal partners could go a long way in moving Flint forward,” he said.

Activists and some Democratic state lawmakers have demanded that Snyder resign, but a spokesman said the Republican governor had no intention of stepping down.

Snyder is scheduled to testify before a U.S. congressional committee on March 17.

Also on Thursday, Snyder said the federal government approved a waiver allowing for Medicaid coverage for children and pregnant women in Flint.

Flint, a predominantly black city of 100,000 about 60 miles northwest of Detroit, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched the source of its tap water from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in April 2014.

The city switched back last October after tests found high levels of lead in blood samples taken from children.

Water from the Flint River, which was more corrosive than Detroit’s, leached lead from the city’s pipes, posing widespread health risks.

Experts have said it could take some time for anti-corrosive chemicals now being added to the water to re-coat pipes so that they will not leach more lead.

Meanwhile, Flint officials said they would begin replacing lead pipes running to homes with copper on Friday as part of a $55 million project.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Ben Klayman, Tom Brown, Alan Crosby and Marguerita Choy)

Michigan officials knew of Legionnaires’ outbreak long before warning

DETROIT (Reuters) – State government officials knew about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and its suspected link to contaminated water in impoverished Flint, Michigan, at least 10 months before a public announcement was made, documents released on Friday showed.

The disclosure of the documents, among thousands of pages of emails and other material released, comes as Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder faces pressure to resign over his administration’s handling of the Flint water crisis.

Michigan’s Genesee County, which includes Flint, had 87 cases of Legionnaires’ from June 2014 to November 2015, 10 of them fatal.

Flint’s water supply was contaminated by lead, a serious public health threat, after its water supply was switched from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014 in a cost-cutting move when the city was under a state-appointed emergency manager.

Friday’s documents echoed previous disclosures showing that high-ranking state officials knew about an increase in Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County and a possible link to Flint’s water 10 months before the governor said he got information about the outbreak.

Stephen Busch, a district manager in the drinking water division for Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, wrote in an email on March 17, 2015 that the city should take action to optimize water quality to help limit the potential for occurrence of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’.

Emails also show Busch tussling with county health officials over the issue and saying it was premature to link the public water system with Legionella. Busch was suspended last month and his job status is currently on review, a state official said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was approached by Genesee County health officials in February 2015 about an increase in reported Legionnaires’ disease cases, but state officials subsequently told the agency they would handle the investigation into the matter themselves, a CDC spokeswoman said.

In January 2016, state officials asked for the CDC’s help in the matter.

Liberal group Progress Michigan said Friday’s release of documents and emails was all for show, and called on Snyder to release those of his and his executive staff’s.

“If the governor is serious about wanting to be transparent, he will release every single document and communication regarding the Flint Water Crisis, including those of his executive staff,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said in a statement.

Flint, a predominantly black city of about 100,000 people, switched back to Detroit water in October after tests found high levels of lead in samples of children’s blood. Water from the Flint River was more corrosive and leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did. Lead can damage the nervous system.

Snyder, who has apologized for the state’s poor handling of the water crisis, alerted the public to the Legionnaires’ outbreak on Jan. 13 and said he had only heard about it two days earlier.

“Gov. Snyder first became aware of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in mid-January of this year,” his press secretary Dave Murray said. “He’s made it clear that he wants to be made aware of such issues more quickly, and already made some changes in some state departments.”

On Friday, a U.S. House of Representatives oversight panel said Snyder would testify on the Flint water crisis next month. Darnell Earley, who was Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager when the city switched from Detroit’s water system, will also testify.

Snyder said in a Friday statement in which the state released emails and other documents from several state departments that “all levels of government failed the people of Flint. This crisis never should have happened.” He said by making the documents public, anyone could review them.

The Legionella bacteria is found in certain plumbing systems, including hot tubs, humidifiers, cooling towers and hot water tanks. Legionnaires’ is spread by breathing in mist from water, and cannot be spread from person to person.

(Additional reporting by Dave McKinney, Fiona Ortiz, Karen Pierog, Karl Plume, P.J. Huffstutter and Justin Madden in Chicago, David Shepardson and Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Tom Brown)

House passes bill requiring EPA actions on lead-laced water

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday easily passed a bill requiring federal environmental regulators to act faster when lead contamination is found in drinking water.

The bill passed 416-2. It was crafted by Michigan Representatives Dan Kildee, a Democrat, and Fred Upton, a Republican, in the wake of Flint’s drinking water crisis.

The measure requires the Environmental Protection Agency to notify the public when concentrations of lead in drinking water rise above mandated levels and to create a plan to improve communication between the agency, utilities, states, and consumers.

In 2014, under a state-appointed emergency manager, Flint, a city of 100,000, switched water supplies to the Flint River, from Detroit’s system as part of a plan to save money in the poverty-stricken city.

The more corrosive river water leached lead from aging pipes. Thousands of children are believed to have ingested dangerous levels of lead, a toxin that can harm brains and cause other health problems.

The bill “wouldn’t have prevented Flint, but it would have caught it far sooner,” Kildee, who is from Flint, said after the vote. The measure must be passed by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama before becoming law.

Other measures in Congress to provide Flint with millions of dollars in aid to deal with the crisis face an uncertain future. Kildee has also introduced a bill to provide about $700 million in federal aid, with a match in funding from Michigan. That and other measures languished as Democrats and Republicans struggled to agree on where the funds would come from.

The Department of Agriculture said on Thursday it would temporarily allow Michigan to use funds from its Women, Infants and Children program for low income citizens to conduct lead testing. The department estimated some 3,800 people could get tested in this way.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Flint mayor vows to replace lead pipes, seeks help with $55 million tab

DETROIT (Reuters) – The mayor of Flint, Michigan, which is struggling to cope with dangerous levels of lead in its drinking water, said on Tuesday the city would replace all residents’ pipes and was counting on state and federal help to foot the estimated $55 million bill.

The city of some 100,000 people was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014 when it switched its source of water from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River to save money.

That move has provoked a national controversy and prompted several lawsuits by parents who say their children are showing dangerously high blood levels of lead, which can cause development problems. Lead can be toxic and children are especially vulnerable.

“We’re going to restore safe drinking water one house at a time, one child at a time,” the city’s Democratic mayor, Karen Weaver, told reporters, adding she expected the state’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, to back the move.

Snyder spokesman Dave Murray said the governor’s office was reviewing Weaver’s request. However, experts have said the best plan is to first coat existing pipes with phosphates to inhibit corrosion, then conduct a study to determine which need to be replaced, he said.

Flint switched back to Detroit water in October after tests found high levels of lead in samples of children’s blood. The more corrosive water from the river leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did.

The former Wayne County prosecutor tapped to lead the state’s investigation into the crisis said on Tuesday he was looking to see whether any of the officials who signed off on the change acted criminally.

“We’re here to investigate what possible crimes there are, anything from involuntary manslaughter … to misconduct in office,” the investigator, Todd Flood said in Lansing. He said the probe is underway but declined to provide details.

Snyder has repeatedly apologized for the state’s poor handling of the crisis.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit also is investigating the crisis.

On Monday, the state Board of Canvassers approved a recall petition for Snyder. It calls for his removal from office due to an executive order he signed last year related to the move of the school reform office away from the state education department, a secretary of state spokesman said.

The board of canvassers previously rejected recall petitions related to the Flint water crisis, the spokesman said.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by James Dalgleish and Lisa Shumaker)

Michigan emails show officials knew of Flint water disease risk

(Reuters) – Emails between high-ranking Michigan state officials show they knew about an uptick in Legionnaires’ disease and that it could be linked to problems with Flint water long before Governor Rick Snyder said he got information on the outbreak.

Snyder said in January he had just learned about the rise in Legionnaires cases. However, emails obtained by the liberal group Progress Michigan and released to reporters on Thursday show Snyder’s principal adviser, Harvey Hollins, was made aware of the outbreak and a possible link to the use of Flint River water last March.

A spokesman for Snyder could not be reached for comment.

“Are we to believe that a top staffer with years of experience would not inform Governor Snyder of a possibly deadly situation?” Progress Michigan executive director Lonnie Scott said in a statement.

The group cited an email from March 13, 2015, that showed Hollins and Dan Wyant, the former head of the state department of environmental quality, were aware of the increase in Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, where Flint is located, and that a county health official was attributing the cases to the Flint River.

State officials on Jan. 13, 2016, announced the spike in the disease resulting in 10 deaths possibly linked to the water crisis.

Flint, a city near Detroit, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched the source of its tap water from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in April 2014.

The city switched back last October after tests found high levels of lead in blood samples taken from children. The more corrosive water from the river leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did. Lead is a toxic agent that can damage the nervous system.

Legionnaires is a type of pneumonia caused by inhaling mist infected with the bacteria Legionella. The mist may come from air-conditioning units for large buildings, hot tubs or showers.

On Wednesday at a hearing in Washington, U.S. lawmakers criticized environmental officials for not acting sooner when they saw drinking water in Flint was polluted with dangerously high lead levels. Several Democratic lawmakers on Thursday invited Snyder to Washington to testify on the Flint water crisis on Feb. 10.

Senate Democrats also teamed up with Republicans to block a wide-ranging U.S. energy bill in a fight over aid to help Flint cope with the crisis.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Andrew Hay)

U.S. lawmakers chastise officials at all levels over Flint water crisis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers criticized environmental officials at a hearing on Wednesday for not acting sooner when they saw a report that drinking water in Flint, Michigan was polluted with dangerously high levels of lead.

“I never thought this could happen in America,” and in a state, “surrounded by fresh water of the Great Lakes,” Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat of Michigan, said at a House Oversight panel examining the water crisis in Flint, a city of 100,000.

The panel issued subpoenas to officials who did not show up to testify about water found to have lead levels that hamper brain development and cause other health problems. Thousands of children are believed to have ingested the polluted water in Flint, a mostly African American and Latino suburb near Detroit.

Lawrence asked Keith Creagh, head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, why his agency did not act on a report by a federal Environmental Protection Agency expert that showed the water was polluted. She did not get a clear answer.

“We all share responsibility in the Flint water crisis, whether it is the city the state or the federal government, we all let the citizens of Flint down,” said Creagh, who took the job last month.

Marc Edwards, a water engineer who first raised the issue of Flint’s lead contamination, told the panel the EPA broke laws by not notifying the public about a report of tainted water. “If it’s not criminal, I don’t know what is.”

EPA water official Joel Beauvais said he did not know why his agency did not tell the public.

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the committee, complained that the Republican-led panel did not invite Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, to testify at the hearing.

Representative Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania criticized Snyder and his hand-picked emergency managers for Flint who were responsible for switching the source of Flint’s tap water from Detroit’s system to the Flint River, a dumping area, in April 2014.

Flint is grappling with the health and political fallout over the switch after the more corrosive river water leached lead from old pipes into the system.

“He got caught red handed poisoning the children of Flint,” Cartwright, a Democrat, said of Snyder. “There’s no two ways about it. That’s the headline here.”

A Snyder spokesman responded in an email: “It’s unfortunate when people who are not working toward a solution inject partisan politics and incendiary rhetoric into an emergency that can best be addressed by people working together.”

Snyder will ask state lawmakers in his next budget proposal to approve a $30 million water payment relief plan for Flint residents to keep their water service on and reimburse them for lead-contaminated water they cannot drink, his office said.

A busload of Flint residents traveled to Washington to attend the hearing. “We’re serious about making sure that the people responsible for this manmade disaster are held accountable,” said Bernadel Jefferson, a bishop.

Lawmakers also slammed the EPA for not sending Administrator Gina McCarthy to Flint until this week, even though the agency has known about the crisis for months. An EPA spokeswoman said the agency had formed a Flint task force last October, and has had a team there for weeks.

The head of the oversight panel, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a Republican, said he subpoenaed EPA’s Susan Hedman to appear at a deposition in Washington later this month.

Hedman, who announced last month that she would resign on Feb. 1, had played down the memo by the EPA’s Miguel del Toral that said tests had shown high levels of lead, telling Flint and Michigan administrators it was only a draft report.

The EPA has agreed to provide all of Hedman’s emails by the end of the week, Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz said his panel had also issued a second subpoena to Darnell Earley, who was Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager when the city switched from Detroit’s system.

A. Scott Bolden, Earley’s lawyer, said his client has not been given enough time to respond to the initial subpoena, which was served last night. Bolden said Earley is “not hiding anywhere” and will honor a subpoena issued with a reasonable response time.

Earley only implemented the plan to change the city’s water source that others had put in place before he started, Bolden said. “There was nothing put before him by the environmental folks, the water testers or anyone connected to ensuring the quality of the water to suggest in any way that a water disaster was looming.”

Political fallout over the crisis could also hold up a wide-ranging bill on energy. Democrats in the Senate threatened to block a bipartisan energy bill if it fails to include immediate aid for Flint.

Federal authorities including the FBI have started a criminal probe into the contamination.

(Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Richard Cowan in Washington)

FBI joins criminal probe into Flint water contamination

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Tuesday it is joining a criminal investigation into lead contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan, exploring whether any laws were broken in a crisis that has captured international attention.

Federal prosecutors in Michigan were working with an investigative team that included the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General, and the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit said.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agency was determining whether federal laws were broken, but declined further comment.

Also on Tuesday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was meeting with officials and community leaders in Flint.

The city, about 60 miles northwest of Detroit, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched the source of its tap water from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in April 2014.

Flint switched back last October after tests found high levels of lead in blood samples taken from children. The more corrosive water from the river leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did. Lead is a toxic agent that can damage the tissues of the nervous system.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who extended a state of emergency in Flint until April 14, has repeatedly apologized for the state’s poor handling of the matter.

“It’s important to look at missteps at all three levels of government – local, state and federal – so such a crisis doesn’t occur again,” said Dave Murray, a spokesman for Snyder.

Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former federal prosecutor, said on Tuesday there was limited ability to seek criminal charges under U.S. environmental laws. Prosecutors would need to find something egregious like a knowingly false statement.

“You need a lie,” he said. “You need something that is false to build a case.”

Simply failing to recognize the seriousness of the situation would not rise to that level, Henning added.

In Washington, Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, Democrats from Michigan, pushed for $600 million in aid – mostly in federal funds – to help Flint replace pipes and provide healthcare.

Meanwhile, Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who chairs an environmental committee, said an agreement to help Flint was close and would be a combination of revolving funds and other aid he did not detail. Money from a revolving fund is like a loan, with the money going to the recipient and then being repaid so there is no net cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said any aid to Flint must not add to U.S. budget deficits for “what is a local and state problem.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on Tuesday called for the removal of lead pipes in the city, starting with the highest-risk homes.

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the Flint crisis on Wednesday and has invited the EPA’s acting deputy assistant administrator in its Office of Water to testify, as well as Keith Creagh, the new director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The committee also invited Darnell Earley, the former Flint emergency manager, but he declined to testify. Earley, currently the Detroit Public Schools emergency manager, will step down from that position on Feb. 29.

(Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, David Bailey in Minneapolis and Tim Gardner and Richard Cowan in Washington; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Grant McCool and G Crosse)