Flint Water Crisis Intensifies As Obama Declares State of Emergency

President Barack Obama, on Saturday, declared that an emergency exists in the State of Michigan and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the area affected by contaminated water in the City of Flint. The president, however, denied Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s request for a disaster declaration.

A request for federal assistance was submitted by Snyder on Jan. 14. Since the crisis began, thousands of Flint citizens have potentially been exposed to toxic amounts of lead in drinking water.

The president?s action Saturday frees up as much as $5 million in federal?aid to immediately assist with the public health crisis. According to a White House statement, the action also authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts with the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population.

It will also provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Genesee County.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.? Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.? This emergency assistance is to provide water, water filters, water filter cartridges, water test kits, and other necessary related items for a period of no more than 90 days.?

Additionally, the president offered assistance in identifying other Federal agency capabilities that could support the recovery effort but do not require an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act.

A disaster declaration, which the president denied the state, would have made larger amounts of federal funding available more quickly to help Flint residents whose drinking water is contaminated with lead. But?under federal law, only natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods are eligible for disaster declarations, federal and state officials said. The lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water is considered a man-made catastrophe.

W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, has named David G. Samaniego as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.?

Snyder, who on Thursday night asked Obama for federal financial aid in the crisis through declarations of both a federal emergency and a federal disaster, said in a news release Saturday?he appreciates Obama granting the emergency request ?and supporting Flint during this critical situation.?

?I have pledged to use all state resources possible to help heal Flint, and these additional resources will greatly assist in?efforts under way to ensure every resident has access to clean water resources,? Snyder said.

Typically, federal aid for an emergency is capped at $5 million, though the president can commit more if he goes through?Congress.

On his application, Snyder noted that as much as $55 million is needed in the short term to repair damaged lead service lines and as much as $41 million to pay for several months of water distribution and providing residents with testing, water filters and cartridges.

FlintMayor: Distribution System Fix Could Cost $1.5 Billion

Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city temporarily switched its supply source in 2014 from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to more corrosive and polluted Flint River water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant.

The switch was made as a cost-cutting move while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The state Department of Environmental Quality has acknowledged a mistake in failing to require the addition of needed corrosion-control chemicals to the water. That caused lead, which causes brain damage and other health problems in children, to leach into the water from pipes and fixtures.

Flint has roughly 500 miles of iron pipe that are about 75 years old, but that part of the problem is not unique to Flint, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which said it is also examining whether other Michigan cities have water supplies endangered by lead contamination.

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