February 12, 2016 / 9:27 PM / 2 years ago

Flint police and fire chiefs resign amid drinking water crisis

(Reuters) - The fire and police chiefs of Flint resigned on Friday in what the Michigan city’s mayor, Karen Weaver, called a first step in restructuring operations as it struggles to cope with dangerous levels of lead in its drinking water.

“Mayor Weaver has determined the city needs fresh faces in place with new ideas to help move Flint forward,” said a statement from her office.

Chief of Police James Tolbert and the fire department chief, David Cox Jr., submitted their resignations to Weaver, the statement said.

Flint, a predominantly black 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.

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. Lead can damage the nervous system.

Several lawsuits have been filed by parents who say their children are showing dangerously high blood levels of lead.

The mayor’s statement on Friday did not mention the water crisis. It said the departments will be headed police Captain Colin Bernie and Fire District Commander Stephen Cobb while a search is conducted for permanent replacements.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Tom Brown

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