WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) — President Obama will travel to Flint, Mich., next week to see for himself the impact caused by the city’s water crisis.
A White House official confirmed Wednesday that Obama will make his first visit to the city on May 4 to “hear first-hand from residents about the public health crisis, receive an in-person briefing on the federal efforts in place … and speak directly with members of the community.”
Among the people he is planning to meet is 8-year-old Amariyanna Copeny – the self-described “Little Miss Flint” – who wrote to the president last month about the problems facing her hometown.
In her letter to Obama, which was released by the White House on Wednesday, she stated that she was planning to go to Washington, D.C., to attend congressional hearings on Flint and “speak out for all the kids that live here.”
Amariyanna, who goes by the name Mari, wrote: “I would love for a chance to meet you or your wife. My mom said chances are you will be to(o) busy with important things but … even just a meeting from you or your wife would really lift people’s spirits.”
Obama wrote back, saying: “I’m so proud of you for using your voice to speak out on behalf of the children of Flint.
“That’s why I want you to be the first to know that I’m coming to Flint. I want to make sure people like you and your family are receiving the help you need and deserve.”
He added that he plans to “use my voice to call for change” in Flint.
The 100,000-population city’s water supply became tainted in 2014 when a cost-cutting decision was taken to remove it from Detroit’s water system and draw water from the Flint River instead. Regulators failed to ensure that the water was properly treated and lead from old pipes found its way into the supply.
It was revealed on Tuesday that hundreds of current and former residents of Flint have joined together to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 18 months after a former resident first contacted the agency about water problems there.
More than 500 families are seeking more than $220 million as compensation for personal injuries and property damage.
Attorney Michael Pitt, representing the families in the class action suit, expects another 250 residents to sue the EPA next week.
Three Michigan officials were officially charged with crimes last week for the lead contamination. More criminal charges are expected.