- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 16, 2016

President Obama on Saturday declared a federal state of emergency in Michigan, delegating federal financial aid to assist with the public health crisis in Flint, where the drinking water has been contaminated with lead.

An official announcement from the White House said the president “ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions in the area affected by the contaminated water.”

The president’s designation authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate responses and provide 75 percent federal funding, although initial federal funding is capped at $5 million over 90 days.

The president also offered to find other available federal assistance, according to the news release.

The order authorized FEMA to provide water, filters, filter cartridges and other needed items to citizens, FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre tweeted.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder had asked the White House to declare Flint and Genesee County a disaster area, but that request was denied, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“I appreciate the President approving my federal emergency request and supporting Flint during this critical situation,” Mr. Snyder said in a news release.

“I have pledged to use all state resources possible to help heal Flint, and these additional resources will greatly assist its efforts under way to ensure every resident has access to clean water resources.”

Typically, federal aid for a state of emergency is capped at $5 million, though the president can commit more with approval from Congress.

Much larger funds can be made available under a federal disaster claim, but those are normally reserved for natural disasters rather than man-made ones like the water crisis in Flint.

Mr. Snyder said as much as $55 million is needed in the short term to repair damaged lead service lines and as much as $41 million to pay for several months of water distribution and providing residents with testing, water filters and cartridges, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city switched its supply source and treatment plant as a cost-saving measure in 2014.

Residents complained about the taste, odor and appearance of the water immediately after the switch, but those complaints were largely ignored by city officials. The state also ignored reports of elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint children.

It was revealed a month ago that the water was poisoned with lead, prompting Mr. Snyder to declare a state of emergency and mobilize the national guard.

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