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President Obama signs emergency declaration for Genesee County to help water situation in Flint

Jan 16, 2016

President Obama.
Credit Pete Souza / White House

President Obama made the declaration after a request from Gov. Snyder for federal help in responding to the drinking water crisis in the Flint area.

People in the city and in outlying areas served by the city’s water system have been urged not to drink the water since October 1, 2015.

 

 

Bottled water and water filters are being delivered to homes by National Guard troops, and volunteers. So far, they’ve reached less than a third of Flint’s 30,000 households.  

 

The drinking water in the city contains unsafe levels of lead after a series of decisions by city and state leaders damaged the city’s drinking water pipes. People in the city drank the contaminated water for more than a year while city and state officials told them the water was safe.

 

More from the White House press release:

 

The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to 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.

 

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

 

In Governor Snyder’s request to the president Thursday, he said the state does not know the extent of the permanent damage to Flint’s infrastructure.

The letter says Flint’s Department of Public Works estimates about 80% of parcels in the city may have lead in their service lines. Poor record keeping over the decades means Flint isn’t sure exactly where its lead service lines are.

However, the letter says Genesee County’s Department of Equalization estimated the cost of replacing these lead service lines at $767 million ($54 million on private property and $712 million on public property).

Snyder says the state has invested more than $10 million so far in “emergency protective measures” in Flint.

The federal emergency declaration means federal assistance is available for up to 90 days. Up to $5 million is available. If that’s exhausted, Congress would have to approve additional spending.

Congressman Dan Kildee, D-MI-05, issued the following statement today after President Barack Obama’s emergency declaration for Flint:

 

“I welcome the President’s quick action in support of the people of Flint after months of inaction by the Governor. The residents and children of Flint deserve every resource available to make sure that they have safe water and are able to recover from this terrible man-made disaster created by the state.”