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Local leaders thank Gov. Snyder for signing off on emergency declaration for Flint

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder has signed off ona state of emergency declaration for the city of Flint. It moves the city closer to getting help to recover from its drinking water crisis. 

“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 written statement.

Snyder’s quick approval of a requested emergency declaration is being applauded in Flint. The request was sent to his office only the day before.  

Flint city officials were very glad to hear late yesterday that the governor had signed off on the city’s state of emergency request.

“We did a happy dance … we sure did,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said with a broad smile, a short time after city officials learned the governor had signed the declaration. 

But Flint city and Genesee County officials are quick to point out this is not the end of the process.

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
“There was a dark cloud hanging over this city,” says Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson, right. “But ... I can see beams of light busting through now.” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, left, and Genesee County Commission Chairman Jamie Curtis, center, also spoke at Tuesday's announcement.

Genesee County Commission Chairman Jamie Curtis says they have until Thursday to complete an assessment of Flint and other communities in the county affected by the city’s use of the Flint River as a drinking water source.

“We have 72 hours to put together the data that supports the incident,” says Curtis.

He says the governor’s signature will put state resources at the city’s disposal to get that done.   

In 2014, Flint switched to its namesake river as a way to save money and prepare for ultimately joining the yet-to-be completed KWA pipeline. But the corrosive river water damaged pipes across the city. The pipes leeched lead into the water that thousands of Flint residents drank. 

Despite switching back to a less corrosive water source last fall, health officials warn Flint’s tap water is not safe to drink.

City officials say they need help from the federal government to recover from the “man-made disaster” the decision to tap the Flint River turned out to be. 

Replacing pipes and repairing the system will cost at least $50 million. More money is needed for people whose health has been compromised by the lead exposure. 

While the city is a step closer to getting help from the federal government, there is no guarantee that the Obama administration will approve the disaster declaration request. 

Despite the struggles that remain, Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson is optimistic.

“There was a dark cloud hanging over this city,” says Nelson. “But now I can see beams of light busting through now.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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