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 in Genesee County 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 control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its source of tap water from Detroit’s system to the nearby Flint River in April 2014 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, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he would investigate whether any laws were violated in the crisis.
“No one should have to fear something as basic as turning on the kitchen faucet,” he said in a statement.
The assistance Snyder has requested could include grants for temporary housing, home repairs and other needs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will review the request and advise Obama.
White House officials were not immediately available for comment. A FEMA spokesman said the agency is reviewing the governor’s request and will give its recommendation to the president as soon as possible.
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. Genesee County also has seen a spike of Legionnaires’ disease resulting in 10 deaths that may or may not be related to the water crisis, state officials previously said.
(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards in Washington; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Bill Trott)