The ongoing crisis over contaminated water in Flint, Michigan is now officially a federal emergency.
President Obama signed a declaration on Saturday stating that an emergency is taking place in Flint.The declaration, which was requested by embattled Michigan governor Rick Snyder, authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to take steps to address the situation:
The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Genesee County.
The declaration is the latest sign of the escalating seriousness of the scandal happening in Flint. Ever since Michigan officials made the decision in 2014 to switch the city’s water supply in order to save money, Flint residents have complained that their water was poisoning—and, potentially, killing—them. The government dismissed these claims despite mounting evidence of their veracity.
Snyder—who waited months after it was clear that Flint’s water was harmful to declare a state emergency—is facing calls to step down over his handling of the crisis, and federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into the situation.