President Obama declared a state of federal emergency for Flint, Michigan over lead-contaminated water, on January 16, 2016. Lead contamination is a potentially dangerous health hazard, as it can cause brain damage and other problems when ingested.
The city has been connected to water supplies from the Flint River since 2014, and numerous residents soon started complaining about rashes and strange smells. However, local authorities said the water was safe to consume. In 2015, medical reports showed elevated levels of lead in children's blood. In October, the city transferred back to Detroit's water system.
Despite that, officials remain concerned the old pipes might still contain lead, and exposure to this is regarded as harmful to both children and adults as it is capable of causing behavior problems and learning disabilities as well as kidney ailments. Local authorities are currently investigating if the water contamination is connected to a recent outbreak of Legionnaire's disease, responsible for 10 deaths in the area.
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President Obama ordered federal aid for state and local response efforts in Genesee County.
"We have been treated like we don't matter because we are from Flint. It's our job to stand up and say no, we're done. We're not going to put up with this anymore," said Melissa Mays, a member of the Coalition for Clean Water during the local church rally on January 17.
During the rally, Rev. Jesse Jackson said that Flint is a "disaster zone" and could be the next epicenter in the fight for economic and social equality as the city struggles through a crisis with lead-contaminated drinking water, Reuters reported.
The National Guard sent additional 70 men into Flint on January 18 to aid in handing out bottled water, filters, and testing kits. The teams visited almost 5 000 homes so far in the most heavily affected neighborhoods.
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