Federal emergency declaration in Flint to expire soon

(George Thomas/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | August 11, 2016

The federal state of emergency declared by President Obama for the city of Flint, Michigan will end this Sunday, August 14.

President Obama announced the state of emergency on January 16, 2016 after thousands of Flint residents were exposed to toxic amounts of lead in tap water. The declaration authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to spend up to 5 million in federal money to supply the community with clean water, water filters, and other necessary items. Since January, FEMA has covered 75% of costs associated with providing more than 243,000 water filter replacement cartridges, and about 50,000 water and pitcher filters. After the emergency status ends this Sunday, the state government will be responsible for those costs.

Bob Kaplan, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Acting Regional Administrator, said that while water quality is improving, their work is far from finished, he said, “We won’t be at the finish line until testing can confirm that Flint residents are receiving safe, clean drinking water.”

Researchers at Virginia Tech University spent two weeks in the Michigan city at the end of June testing water samples for lead, iron, and Legionella, a bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease and responsible for the deaths of ten Flint citizens. In a press conference today, the research team concluded that Legionella colonization was very low, and while lead levels have decreased, Flint citizens should still use filters or bottled water until further notice from the State or EPA.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said that rebuilding Flint citizens’ trust in the government is going to require more support from government agencies. She said, “We don’t think we’ve gotten everything that the citizens deserve as a result of what has happened…It hasn’t been enough and it hasn’t been fast enough.” Weaver added, “…the only way people will truly feel comfortable is when we have new pipes in place.”

Video – “Iowa’s Drinking Water: Could Flint Happen Here?”

Joyce Zhu presented at “Iowa’s Drinking Water: Could Flint Happen Here?” at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines on June 17, 2016. Zhu, a PhD student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was part of the Flint Water Studies team. (Nick Fetty/CGRER)
Nick Fetty | June 17, 2016

Pete Damiano (Director at the University of Iowa’s Public Policy Center), Pete Weyer (Director at the UI’s Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination), and Joyce Zhu (PhD student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) discuss “Iowa’s Drinking Water: Could Flint Happen Here?” which was hosted at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines on June 17, 2016.