FLINT, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Gov. Rick Snyder has asked President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency for Genesee County as the city of Flint struggles with a water crisis.
The governor announced late Thursday that he had asked the president to declare the emergency and an expedited major disaster.
Snyder also asked for more aid through Individual and Public Assistance for both residents and government agencies to help respond to the crisis. That aid could include grants for temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property loans and other programs, the governor’s office said in a release.
Earlier Thursday, dozens of people — some lugging jugs of dirty water in protest of the water crisis in Flint — criticized the Republican governor during a demonstration inside the Michigan state Capitol. MLive.com and WDIV-TV report that the protesters arrived in Lansing via buses from Flint and Detroit.
Flint’s tap water became contaminated with too much lead after the city switched its water supply in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. Local officials first declared a public health emergency in October in response to tests that showed children with elevated levels of lead.
Snyder spokesman Dave Murray told MLive.com that the governor “acted aggressively” and announced an action plan after becoming aware of the lead levels. Snyder declared an emergency in Flint earlier this month.
Michigan State University and a Flint hospital are putting a team together to keep a long-term eye on the lead problem, from offering nutrition tips to residents to health monitoring.
The effort will be led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who is credited with sounding the alarm last year about high levels of lead in children. Hanna-Attisha, a doctor at Hurley Medical Center, says she wants to bring “hope” to a community that’s “traumatized.”
The Genesee County health department and the Michigan health department will also have roles.
Meanwhile, an official at the Genesee County health department says the agency has been “bombarded” with phone calls from anxious residents a day after state officials said the number of Legionnaires’ disease cases had increased.
Chief health officer Mark Valacak tells The Associated Press he “had no idea” that Gov. Rick Snyder was holding a news conference Wednesday to disclose the findings.
Valacak says his department hasn’t made a direct link between Flint water and bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. State officials haven’t made one either. Valacak says Legionnaires’ disease isn’t associated with drinking tainted water. People can get sick if they inhale mist or vapor from contaminated water systems.