Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of emergency in Genesee County related to lead contamination of the city of Flint’s water supply.
“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 in a statement released by his office.
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 US 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.
Flint city officials cheered the 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.” But 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. Corrosive river water caused lead from old pipes to leach into the water in some homes and schools. The result was elevated lead levels in children.
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.