The National Guard and state police have begun handing out bottles of water as Flint, Mich. continues to deal with its water contamination problem, described by Mayor Karen Weaver as a “man-made disaster.”
Flint residents started complaining about water contaminated with high levels of lead in April 2014, soon after the city switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River as a water source. According to The Associated Press, the decision, approved by an emergency manager appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, saved the city about $4 million annually.
Capt. Chris Kelenske, commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, spoke about the importance of providing residents with clean water.
“We recognize the urgency of getting water resources to the residents of Flint,” he said in a statement Monday. “To help ensure the necessary resources continue to be available at the water resource sites, the state is expanding their partnership with the American Red Cross to utilize their warehousing and inventory management capabilities for stored water resources.”
Although the decision to switch water supply was taken to save money, it may be expensive in the long run.
“We see the consequences of lead poisoning a lot later,” said Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center in Flint in an ABC News interview. “In five years we’re going to see kids with developmental delays and will have to be in special ed … in 15 years they’ll have problems with behaving.”
The Flint water crisis is being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, which could eventually lead to criminal charges. Although Snyder has recently apologized for the water contamination, BuzzFeed said an investigation by Virginia Tech shows the governor’s office knew about the risk six months ago.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant resigned in December after an investigation found that his department failed to treat the river water and ignored complaints from Flint residents.
Filmmaker Michael Moore, a Flint native, has called for criminal charges to be brought against Snyder.
“I’m asking everyone who agrees with me to sign on to this petition and call for your arrest, Governor Snyder,” said Moore in article posted to his website. “You are not allowed to run amok in my hometown like you have done. The children whom you have poisoned have to endure a life of pain and lower IQs from your actions. You have destroyed a generation of children — and for that, you must pay. It is time for you to go to prison.”