President Barack Obama insisted Wednesday that the federal government will do whatever it can to assist residents of Flint, Michigan, which is dealing with a public-health disaster involving a tainted water supply.
“We are going to have [the mayor’s] back and all the people of Flint’s back as they go all the way through this terrible tragedy,” Obama said in a speech to Detroit autoworkers.
Obama declared a federal emergency in Flint on January 14, shortly after the status was requested by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R). Up to $5 million in federal money has already been made available to assist in the city’s recovery.
Flint’s water supply was contaminated following a 2014 switch off of Detroit’s water system and onto the Flint River. The Flint River had more corrosive water, which led to lead from an ageing pipe system being leached into the water. Many people complained about the state’s slow response, which didn’t pick up steam until last October.
The city switched back onto Detroit’s water system for now, but residents are still at risk and must use filters that the state has provided.
“I know that if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids health could be at risk,” Obama said. “It is a reminder of why you can’t short change basic services that we provide to our people and that we as a people provide as a government to make sure public health and safety is preserved.”
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