The Michigan National Guard has been present in Flint for just a few days, but Gov. Rick Snyder already wants the assistance of FEMA and President Barack Obama to help tackle the city’s water crisis.
Snyder requested the president declare a federal emergency on Thursday after nearly exhausting all efforts to prevent residents from cooking, drinking, and bathing using the lead-filled water. Water bottles and filters have been dispersed throughout the city ever since the discovery of the corroded water pipes this fall, The Los Angeles Times reports.
In September, children were discovered with high amounts of lead in their blood. Residents have since filed lawsuits against the city for putting their lives in danger.
In an effort to save money, the city switched from the Detroit-based system and began using water from the Flint River last year. Researchers from Virginia Tech came across lead findings, but politicians insisted the water was safe to drink. This tactic was meant to last two years until a new state-run line was created for the lake, The Los Angeles Times writes.
Former Mayor Dayne Walling informed residents the water was clean and even drank it on local TV. He also bragged about his decision not to believe researchers, telling reporters, “If you don’t believe those particular tests, that’s your prerogative. This is a democracy.” He has since retracted his statements.
Flint has switched back to using water from the Huron River, but the city’s pipes are still contaminated; it’s unclear when residents will be able to use the tap system again. Snyder has issued several apologies and taken steps to treat the city’s 99,000 residents.
FEMA spokeswoman Susan Hendricks released a statement Friday, confirming assistance in Flint had already begun.
“We’ve been actively engaged with the State of Michigan as it works to resolve the water issues in Flint,” Hendricks said. “On January 12, Governor Snyder requested FEMA support to help identify and coordinate relevant federal agency programs that may be available to assist with the ongoing crisis of the lead contamination of the water in Flint, Michigan. FEMA promptly approved that request and named a Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator to provide this support.”
We've received Gov. Snyder's request for additional FEMA support & we're reviewing as expeditiously as possible. #FlintWater#StaffordAct
“The Flint city charter establishes a mayor-centric form of government,” Snyder said in a statement. Flint is headed by the mayor who serves as the city’s chief executive and the City Council, serving as the city’s legislative body. The city currently is in receivership, and the city administrator is responsible and accountable for the day-to-day city operations.
Meanwhile, residents are still struggling. With 40 percent of the city below the poverty line, many are confused as to why they still have to pay for the water they are unable to consume.
The state Department of Environmental Quality is currently investigating.