DETROIT (CN) – Members of the National Guard arrived in Flint, Mich., on Wednesday after Gov. Rick Snyder summoned them to aid in the city’s lead-water crisis.
Snyder activated the guard late Tuesday to help distribute bottled water and filters, exactly one week after declaring a state of emergency on Jan. 5 and the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the opening of an investigation into the state’s handling of the situation.
Contamination has been a problem in Flint for nearly two years since an emergency manager appointed by Snyder switched the city’s drinking-water supply from Lake Huron to the notoriously polluted Flint River.
The move was a cost-cutting one, taking filtration responsibilities from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department and reassigning it to a city plant.
The water was not treated properly, however, and lead pipes infected the supply.
Flint residents quickly complained of strange-tasting, cloudy water, but city and state leaders continued insisting that the supply was safe.
With various city, state and federal agencies jockeying to assign blame for the crisis,
An independent task force appointed by Snyder recently hammered the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality waiting until July to implement chemical treatments meant to keep lead from contaminating the water.
A month later, researchers began publicizing high lead levels in the blood work of Flint children.
It was not until October that the state conceded having incorrectly applied federal water-quality standards. Michigan switched Flint back to the Detroit water system that month.
Snyder called in the National Guard after it became clear it would take the state police and Red Cross volunteers several weeks to reach more than 30,000 homes affected.
The governor contacted the Federal Management Emergency Agency as well in an effort to coordinate a plan that would involve the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Lead poisoning can cause permanent brain damage as well as other health issues. Michigan has urged all Flint parents with children under the age of 6 to be tested for exposure.
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