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Flint water crisis: Michigan governor seeks Obama's help

FLINT, Mich. -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has asked President Obama to issue an emergency and major disaster declaration concerning the drinking water crisis in Flint that began months ago.

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.

Flint's tap water became contaminated with too much lead after the city switched its water supply in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. Local officials declared a public health emergency in October. Exposure to lead can cause behavior problems and learning disabilities in children.

"We are utilizing all state resources to ensure Flint residents have access to clean and safe drinking water and today I am asking President Obama to provide additional resources as our recovery efforts continue," Snyder, a Republican, said in the statement.

Earlier Thursday, dozens of people, many bussed in from Flint and Detroit, marched on, then held a loud demonstration in the state capitol building in Lansing, reports the CBS affiliate there, WLNS-TV.

Some carried signs saying, "Recall Snyder. Jail him." Many chanted repeatedly, "Hey hey, ho ho, Snyder's got to go."

Demonstrators in Michigan Capitol building protesting against Gov. Rick Snyder over the water crisis in Flint on January 14, 2016
Demonstrators in Michigan Capitol building protesting against Gov. Rick Snyder over the water crisis in Flint on January 14, 2016 WLNS-TV

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 repairs, and the public assistance would help agencies such as city schools and the water system.

For more than a year, water drawn from the Flint River leached lead from old pipes into homes after the city switched its drinking water. Flint has since returned to Detroit's system for its water, but officials remain concerned that damage to the pipes caused by the Flint River could enable them to continue leaching lead.

Snyder declared an emergency last week and pledged this week that officials would contact every household in Flint to check whether residents have bottled water and a filter and want to be tested for lead exposure while his administration works on a long-term solution. On Tuesday, he activated the National Guard to help in distributing water, filters and other supplies and asked for help from FEMA in coordinating a recovery plan. FEMA has appointed a disaster recovery coordinator.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat who represents the Flint area, has consistently criticized Snyder's response to the issue and advocated for greater federal assistance.

"It is the state's ultimate responsibility to act and make it right. Flint residents are the victims in this crisis and they deserve a more urgent response equal to the gravity of this crisis," he said in a statement earlier this week.

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