January 15, 2016 / 2:15 PM / 4 years ago

Michigan governor asks Obama for federal aid in Flint water crisis

DETROIT (Reuters) - Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has asked President Barack Obama to declare both an emergency and an expedited major disaster in the county where the city of Flint has been dealing with the fallout from lead-contaminated drinking water.

The top of a water tower at the Flint Water Plant is seen in Flint, Michigan January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Snyder said on late Thursday that he requested federal aid in Genesee County to protect the safety of Flint residents. Earlier this week, he sent the Michigan National Guard to distribute bottled water and other supplies.

The financially strapped city was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its source of tap water from Detroit’s system to the nearby Flint River in April 2014 to save money.

Flint, which is about 60 miles (100 km) northwest of Detroit, returned to using that city’s water in October after tests found elevated levels of lead in the water and in the blood of some children.

The more corrosive water from the Flint River leached lead from the city pipes more than Detroit water did, leading to the problems.

“I am asking President Obama to provide additional resources,” Snyder said Thursday.

On Friday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he would investigate whether any laws were violated in the crisis. “No one should have to fear something as basic as turning on the kitchen faucet.”

The assistance Snyder has requested could include grants for temporary housing, home repairs and other needs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will review the request and advise Obama.

The White House said on Friday it would consider Snyder’s request. A FEMA spokesman said the agency will give its recommendation to the president as soon as possible. Several Michigan members of Congress on Friday urged Obama to provide the aid.

Also on Friday, a bipartisan group of leaders on the House energy and commerce committee sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting a briefing “in the coming days” on the Flint crisis.

Some Flint residents sued Snyder, other officials, Michigan and the city on Jan. 7 in Genesee County court, seeking class action status covering all residents.

Other Flint residents late last year filed a federal lawsuit. Genesee County also has seen a spike of Legionnaires’ disease resulting in 10 deaths that may be related to the water crisis, state officials previously said.

Snyder said on Friday he supports the return of more executive powers to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. Since the city is in receivership, a city administrator is currently responsible for day-to-day operations.

Additional reporting by Julia Edwards, Jeff Mason and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Bill Trott, Meredith Mazzilli and Bernard Orr

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