Michigan governor asks Obama for federal aid in Flint water crisis

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 15, 2016 9:13 AM

DETROIT (Reuters) - Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said he asked President Barack Obama to declare both an emergency and an expedited major disaster in the county where the city of Flint has been dealing with the fallout from lead-contaminated drinking water.

Snyder said in a statement released shortly before midnight on Thursday that he requested federal aid for eligible residents in Genesee County as well as state and local government entities to protect the safety of Flint residents. Earlier this week, he sent the Michigan National Guard to distribute bottled water and other supplies to residents.

The financially strapped city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its source of tap water to the nearby Flint River in April 2014 from Detroit's system to save money.

Flint, which is about 60 miles (100 km) northwest of Detroit, returned to using that city's water in October after tests found elevated levels of lead in the water and in the blood of some children.

The more corrosive water from the Flint River leached lead from the city pipes more than Detroit water did, leading to the problems.

“We are utilizing all state resources to ensure Flint residents have access to clean and safe drinking water," Snyder said, "and today I am asking President Obama to provide additional resources as our recovery efforts continue.”

On Friday morning, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he would investigate whether any laws were violated in the crisis.

“The situation in Flint is a human tragedy in which families are struggling with even the most basic parts of daily life," he said in a statement.

"No one should have to fear something as basic as turning on the kitchen faucet," he added.

The assistance Snyder has requested could include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and other programs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will review the request and advise Obama.

FEMA officials were not immediately available for comment.

Flint residents left with bills for water declared undrinkable due to the lead contamination sued Snyder, other officials, Michigan and the city on Jan. 7. The lawsuit filed in Genesee County court seeks class action status covering all residents.

Other Flint residents late last year filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city and state of endangering their health.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)