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Aug 19, 8:06 AM EDT

Michigan restores pay of 6 employees suspended in Flint woes


FLINT, Mich. (AP) -- The state of Michigan has restored the pay of six suspended employees who are charged with crimes related to Flint's crisis with lead-tainted water, as efforts move forward to replace old water pipes in the city.

The Flint Journal, citing information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, said the pay of those workers totals about $500,000 a year. The newspaper and The Detroit News reported the update on the suspended employees, who also will get help from the state in defending themselves.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees Stephen Busch, Michael Prysby, Adam Rosenthal and Patrick Cook as well as Department of Health and Human Services employees Nancy Peeler and Robert Scott were suspended without pay earlier this year when the various charges against them were announced.

"Given the uncertainty of the timeliness of the resolution of these cases, combined with the unique nature of this situation," the directors of the department decided to continue the suspensions but restore pay, the departments said Thursday in a joint statement.

"DEQ and MDHHS are providing support for legal counsel and will continue to monitor the legal proceedings and evaluate next steps as appropriate," the statement said.

The Michigan attorney general's office has charged nine current or former public officials in its investigation, which is ongoing.

Meanwhile, Flint is moving forward on an effort to replace old lead and galvanized steel water lines. A kickoff for the latest phase of the Fast Start program is Friday. Mayor Karen Weaver said it will result in the replacement of service lines at 200-250 homes.

This fall, her office says the next phase of the replacement program that started in March will cover 5,000 additional homes.

The project has replaced dozens of lines and is being paid for with $2 million from the state. Over 18 months, lead leached from old pipes into Flint's water supply when the city used water from the Flint River. The water wasn't treated for corrosiveness.

Tests later found elevated lead levels in some children. Residents also complained of skin rashes. The city has since returned to Detroit's water system.

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