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Gov. Snyder declares a state of emergency after lead continues to be a problem in Flint's water

Jan 5, 2016

Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of emergency in Genesee County related to lead contamination of the city of Flint’s water supply.

It’s been three months since the state first acknowledged lead contamination in the city’s water supply. The scandal cost the state’s top environmental regulator his job, and the U.S. Justice Department has joined an Environmental Protection Agency investigation into what happened.

The governor’s emergency declaration could be a prelude to requesting federal disaster relief for the city. That would occur if state and local resources are not sufficient to dealing with Flint’s lead contamination crisis.

More from a press release from the Governor's office:

By declaring a state of emergency, Snyder has made available all state resources in cooperation with local response and recovery operations. The declaration authorizes the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) to coordinate state efforts.

“The health and welfare of Flint residents is a top priority and we’re committed to a coordinated approach with resources from state agencies to address all aspects of this situation,” Snyder said. “Working in full partnership with the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, all levels of government and water quality experts, we will find both short-term and long-term solutions to ensure the health and safety of Flint residents.”

Flint's new mayor, Karen Weaver, declared a state of emergency in the city last month. City officials cheered the governor's decision, which came a day after their request for the declaration.

“There was a dark cloud hanging over this city,” said Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson, “but now I can see beams of light busting through now.”

It remains to be seen if Flint will actually qualify for federal aid.

State-appointed emergency managers made the decision in 2013 to switch the city’s drinking water to the Flint River. Some people in the city were exposed to high lead levels in their drinking water after the city started getting tap water from its namesake river.  In was later discovered that the city failed to add chemicals to reduce the corrosiveness of the Flint River.  The corrosive water damaged pipes, including thousands of transmission lines connecting Flint homes to the city’s water mains. The damaged pipes leached lead into the drinking water.

(Read more about what happened in Flint here.)

The governor says the emergency declaration is part of an effort to find short- and long-term solutions to ensure the safety of Flint’s drinking water.

*This post has been updated.