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Obama declares state of emergency in Flint water crisis; Barlow expresses solidarity

On Saturday, President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in the city of Flint’s ongoing water crisis. The move will direct up to $5 million in federal aid to provide immediate assistance to families and residents whose water has been contaminated by lead at nearly 900 times the limit set out by the Environmental Protection Agency.

(Photo: Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards shows the difference in water quality between Detroit and Flint after testing during a Sept. 15 news conference in Flint.

NBC News reports, “The National Guard sent dozens of additional members into Flint, Michigan, on Monday to help address the impoverished city’s water crisis, as Gov. Rick Snyder came under widening criticism — from residents and presidential candidates — for his handling of a massive exposure to lead. The 70 new guardsmen more than doubled the number already in Flint to hand out bottled water, filters and testing kits in the city’s worst-hit neighborhoods.”


The Detroit Free Press notes, “In what’s become a huge government scandal, garnering headlines across the country and around the world, Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city temporarily switched its supply source in 2014 from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to more corrosive and polluted Flint River water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant. The switch was made as a cost-cutting move while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.”


On Saturday, Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow tweeted “Solidarity with people of Flint” along with the CBC news article, Obama declares emergency in Michigan over lead-contaminated water. She further says, “The drinking water crisis and ongoing lead poisoning of children and families in Flint, Michigan is deeply disturbing. It requires both immediate action and long term solutions. Flint residents had their right to water violated when the state of Michigan-appointed emergency manager decided it would be cheaper to draw drinking water from a polluted river than from Detroit’s water system. There is evidence that Governor Snyder and his administration knew about the tainted water as early as last summer and continued to tell people their water was safe to drink. The governor only switched residents back to a safe water source this fall. This is nothing short of criminal. What is also appalling is that Flint residents are facing water cutoffs because they can’t afford to pay for water given recent massive price hikes. This water crisis is part of ongoing systemic violations of the human right to water and is environmental racism at its worst. More funding will be needed to adequately address this situation and to begin to bring justice to the families and residents of Flint. We strongly urge the Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency.”

US organization Food and Water Watch delivered 27,000 signed petitions on Friday to the US Department of Health and Human Services to asking them to declare a public health emergency in Flint (see photo above by Food and Water Watch Michigan). It is estimated that Flint will need $1.5 billion to fix its broken water system and give children and residents the healthcare they need.

The Root explains, “Flint’s citizens, 52 percent African American, have been deprived of the right to govern their city since 2011. Michigan’s Emergency Financial Manager law allows the governor to appoint an unelected official to control a city determined to be in fiscal crisis. Emergency Financial Managers have been primarily assigned to majority-African-American cities across Michigan.”

(Photo: Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, right, and City Administrator Natasha Henderson, address questions about adding supplemental phosphates to the city’s water during a news conference in December. Jake May/Flint via AP)

Filmmaker Michael Moore, who along with local residents has called for the arrest of Governor Snyder, returned to his hometown of Flint on Saturday. He held a press conference calling on President Obama to come to Flint tomorrow when Obama attends the Detroit Auto Show.


To read more:
Flint drinking water compromised to save money, now water disconnection notices are being sent
Michiganders Call on Feds for Help in Flint Water Crisis
Take action: Keep the water on in Flint!