Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is asking President Barack Obama to issue an emergency and major disaster declaration amid the Flint water crisis.
Snyder's office said in a statement late Thursday night that it had asked for the declarations and is seeking additional federal aid for both individuals and public agencies involved in the effort to provide Flint residents with clean drinking water.
Snyder's request will be reviewed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will advise the president on whether the declarations should be granted, the statement said. If it is approved, the individual assistance could include grants for temporary housing and home pairs, and the public assistance would help agencies such as city schools and the water system.
The request came after busloads of residents from Flint, Michigan, traveled Thursday to the state capitol building in Lansing to protest Flint’s water crisis and demand Snyder’s resignation.
Local media showed dozens of people protesting over the city's tainted water, widely blamed on a state decision to save money by switching Flint’s water source from Detroit’s system — which draws from Lake Huron — to the local Flint River.
Many residents and activists say officials failed to properly treat the Flint River water for its corrosive content, which apparently caused the water to pick up lead from aging pipes that connect water mains to houses and businesses.
Blood lead levels in some children in the city, which is majority African-American, more than doubled, it was found in 2015. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays and learning difficulties in children.
“Snyder your legacy is murderer,” read one sign held by a protester in Lansing on Thursday. Another read: “Arrest Snyder.”
Snyder has apologized for the state’s handling of the water situation, and in December he accepted the resignation of the head of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality — which had approved the decision to switch water sources.
Flint switched back to the Detroit water supply in October. But in December, the city found that water lead levels were still “well above” the acceptable federal level in many homes.
Snyder on Tuesday activated the state’s National Guard to distribute bottled water door-to-door.
But Flint residents say Snyder has moved too slowly in addressing the crisis.
“Get him and the federal government to assist and bring in water, so that we don’t have to get just one jug or two cases at a time,” Arthur Woodson, a water activist and rally organizer, told ABC 12 in Lansing.
“We need for him to relieve us of [state] emergency managers so we can make our own decisions, because he’s moving slow with his decision making,” Woodson said.
Many residents and activists say Flint's water crisis is one of the consequences of decisions by state emergency managers, state appointees whom Michigan sends to help manage financially distressed municipalities.
In addition to the lead poisoning, Flint has experienced a spike in Legionnaires’ disease that has resulted in 10 deaths and may or may not be related to the water crisis, officials said Wednesday.
Genesee County, which is home to Flint, had 87 cases of Legionnaires’ from June 2014 to November 2015. State officials told reporters they couldn’t rule out the possibility that it resulted from the water supply switch.
Legionnaires’ is a type of pneumonia transmitted when people inhale water mist infected with the bacteria — sometimes from air-conditioning units in large buildings, as was the case last year in the outbreak in the Bronx in New York City that left 12 dead and dozens sickened.
The Legionnaires’ outbreak “just adds to the disaster we already are facing” in Flint, Snyder said.
With wire services