CHICAGO — President Obama has signed an emergency declaration requested by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in the wake of a water contamination crisis in Flint.
The declaration, signed Saturday, authorizes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide and coordinate disaster relief efforts and providing $5 million in aid.
Last week, Snyder declared a state emergency in the Genesee County and endorsed a shift of more executive powers back to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver to help the city grapple with the contaminated water.
The crisis began after the city broke off from the Detroit Water and Sewerage System in 2014, saying it was too expensive. The city began pulling water from the Flint River, planning to use the river water until later this year when it obtains access to a new pipeline being built by the Karegnondi Water Authority.
After the switch, it quickly became clear that the Flint River water was polluted, with residents complaining of a yellowish color and strong odor. Tests later show lead levels exceeding federal standards. Last fall, the state provided the city with $6 million to help cover the costs of reconnecting temporarily Detroit's water and sewer system. The temporary move did not solve the city's problems as it became clear that the water delivery system's pipes had become contaminated with the lead-laden water.
State officials said a supplemental spending bill will go before lawmakers in the coming weeks to help cover some near-term costs. Snyder said emergency measures could cost $41 million. The state's latest revenue forecast released Thursday that shows a $575 million surplus could help cover any immediate needs.
Several lawsuits have been filed against the state and other authorities and the state attorney general has launched an investigation into whether any state laws have been broken. Snyder has acknowledged that the state was late in addressing the crisis.