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Local officials welcome governor's request for federal help with Flint water crisis

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder met privately with Flint and Genesee County leaders today, hours after asking the Obama administration for help in dealing with the city’s water crisis.

“We’re finally getting the attention that we need and deserve,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in a written statement. “For so long, our voices have gone unheard. This man-made water disaster has been devastating and frustrating for the residents of Flint. We can’t fix what’s happened to the people of Flint. But, we can get them the things they deserve as a result of it.”

Flint’s drinking water became contaminated after the city quit buying water from Detroit's system, and began pumping it from the Flint River. Flint was being run by a state-appointed emergency manager at the time. The city failed to properly treat the corrosive river water. The river water damaged Flint’s aging pipes, which leached lead into the drinking water. 

The governor’s request to the Obama administration seeks additional federal aid for both individuals and public agencies involved in the effort to provide Flint residents with clean drinking water.

Kerry Nelson is Flint’s city council president. He’s thankful for the request. But he says it only addresses about 85% of the city’s needs. Nelson says the city will need more help dealing with health problems related to lead-tainted drinking water. 

“People are going to need assistance with that because we don’t know what this will cause, what it has caused, what it has done,” says Nelson. “We need a lot of resources and I pray that we get them.”

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell has been sending out sheriff’s deputies and people serving community service to deliver cases of bottled water and water filters. He wants FEMA to focus on what needs to be done to replace thousands of aging water pipes in Flint. 

“The feds needs to come in here and take a serious look at our infrastructure, I can’t say that enough,” says Pickell. 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, welcomed the governor’s request for federal help.

“The residents and thousands of children of Flint who have been poisoned are the victims in this situation. They deserve a response equal to the gravity of this crisis,” Kildee said in a written statement. “The governor’s request is an important step toward making sure they get the help they need.” 

There’s no timetable for a decision on the request from the Obama administration. But one could come as early as this weekend.  

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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