Michigan Police Delivering Water Door-to-Door Amid Contamination Crisis

The Michigan governor has declared a state of emergency in Flint.

ByABC News
January 12, 2016, 3:54 PM

— -- Michigan State Police began delivering clean and safe water door-to-door in Flint today after Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for Genesee County a week ago.

The state action comes after Flint issued its own state of emergency last month because of a change in the city’s water source that has exposed children to potentially dangerous levels of lead, officials say.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has called the crisis a "man-made disaster caused by the city switching to the Flint River as a water source.”

As a result, water resource teams, including Michigan state police and other state personnel, started distributing bottled water, water filters, replacement cartridges and testing kits to residents. There are also sites where residents can pick up clean donated water.

“We recognize the urgency of getting water resources to the residents of Flint,” Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, 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.”

Nicole Lisabeth, a spokeswoman for the state police, who are running the Michigan Joint Information Center, said she didn't have details about the water deliveries, adding “we’re looking into all options that may include a federal request [for emergency assistance] but don’t have a definitive request."

The trouble began in 2014 when the city disconnected from Detroit’s water supply and began drawing its water from the Flint River. It was intended as a stop-gap measure until the completion of a pipeline to Port Huron Lake as the source for Flint’s water.

But the river water wasn’t treated properly, a state spokeswoman told ABC News in an earlier interview, so it drew lead from the pipes into the water supply.

"This switch has resulted in elevated lead levels in drinking water, which prompted both the city and the County Health department to issue a health advisory earlier this year," the mayor's office said in a statement last year.

The city realized savings of about $4 million annually by using the Flint River, according to The Associated Press.

The city switched back to the Detroit water supply last year but the lead levels remain higher than acceptable because the chemicals used to treat the water have not fully stopped the water from leaching lead from the pipes, a state spokeswoman told ABC News last month.

City and state officials have come under fire from residents for the perceived slow response to the water supply crisis. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan, said the effects of the crisis could show up decades later.

"We see the consequences of lead poisoning a lot later," Hanna-Attisha, told ABC News last month. "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."

As for declaring a state of emergency, doing so may help get federal funds and assistance for future programs and therapies aimed at helping children exposed to the lead, a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman told ABC News last month after the city's declaration.

Gov. Synder Monday announced the creation of the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee, aimed at developing solutions for long-term problems associated with the water crisis.

“We need to focus on improving Flint for the longer term,” Snyder said in a statement. “This committee, made up of experts from government and the Flint community, will set a course of action to remedy the water situation and resulting health issues, and carry on long after the emergency declaration expires.”

ABC News' Emily Shapiro contributed to this article.