FLINT, Mich., Jan. 13 (UPI) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder activated the National Guard late Tuesday after requesting help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deal with the lead water crisis in Flint.
National Guard members are expected to arrive to Flint on Wednesday to assist local volunteers, the American Red Cross and state authorities in distributing water at five sites. More than 30 National Guard members are expected to arrive by Friday.
“As we work to ensure that all Flint residents have access to clean and safe drinking water, we are providing them with the direct assistance they need in order to stretch our resources further,” Snyder, the Republican governor in office since 2011, said in a statement. “The Michigan National Guard is trained and ready to assist the citizens of Flint.”
Volunteers and authorities are going door-to-door in Flint neighborhoods to give residents bottled water, water filters, replacement cartridges and lead water testing kits. More than 100,000 people are affected in Flint and some surrounding areas.
Since officials in Flint switched the city’s water source from Detroit to the Flint River in early 2014, complaints about the smell of the water and high levels of lead in children have piled up.
While Snyder created and executed a plan to switch the city back to Detroit’s water system in October, the damage was already done as many children already are known to have been affected by the polluted water.
Lead toxicity is dangerous for children because it can interfere with the development of the brain and nervous system, and carries other health risks for many organs and systems, some of which may not be apparent for years after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The city switched its water source from the Detroit system in April 2014 as a temporary solution while a pipeline is completed to bring water from Lake Huron’s Karegnondi Water Authority.
Stephen Feller contributed to this report.