Sunday, January 17, 2016

Obama Declares Emergency in Flint
Wall Street Journal
Jan. 16, 2016 5:20 p.m. ET

President Barack Obama on Saturday declared a federal emergency in Michigan, freeing up federal aid to help with the water crisis in the city of Flint.

The declaration means the federal government will pick up 75% of the cost of bottled water, filters, cartridges and other supplies, up to $5 million, state and federal officials said. If the $5 million is exhausted, Congress has the option to approve additional funding.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder this week made the request to help the city of 100,000, which began experiencing high lead levels in its water after a switch of water source to save money.

“I appreciate the president approving my federal emergency request and supporting Flint during this critical situation,” Gov. Snyder said in a statement. “I have pledged to use all state resources possible to help heal Flint, and these additional resources will greatly assist in efforts under way to ensure every resident has access to clean water resources.”

The president declined a further request by the governor to declare the situation a major disaster, which under law applies to natural disasters and certain other situations, state and federal officials said. The state is looking into an appeal of that decision, the governor’s office said.

The water crisis has been unfolding for months in the Rust Belt city, which is still synonymous with closed General Motors plants and the decline of the U.S. auto industry. State officials and others now believe lead began leaching from service lines and plumbing into residents’ drinking water when the city switched its water source to the Flint River in April 2014.

The temporary switch was part of a cost-cutting move away from Detroit’s water system before Flint could begin receiving water from another authority in 2016. The city stopped using the Flint River as its water source this fall, after the extent of the contamination became apparent.

The percentage of children in Flint with elevated levels of lead nearly doubled from 2.1% before using water from the Flint River to 4% in 2015, according to a report released in September by a medical center in the city. Mayor Karen Weaver, who has also pushed for federal support, called the contamination a “man-made disaster.”

Write to Joe Barrett at

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