Obama to visit Flint amid water crisis

Obama to visit Flint amid water crisis
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President Obama is planning to visit Flint, Mich., next week to speak about the city’s ongoing water contamination crisis.

The White House said Wednesday in a Medium post that Obama made the pledge to visit in a letter to 8-year-old Mari Copeny, a Flint resident who wrote to him about the crisis. He’ll visit May 4.

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“The President will travel to Flint, Michigan where he will hear first-hand from Flint residents like Mari about the public health crisis, receive an in-person briefing on the federal efforts in place to help respond to the needs of the people of Flint, and speak directly with members of the Flint community,” the White House said.

Obama told the girl about his plans to visit in a Monday letter.

“I want to make sure people like you and your family are receiving the help you need and deserve,” Obama wrote. “Like you, I’ll use my voice to call for change and help lift up your community.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) will be too busy to visit with Obama during the president’s trip, Snyder told The Detroit News.

The Obama administration has been extremely critical of Snyder’s handling of the Flint crisis. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group Overnight Energy: Automakers group sides with Trump in emissions lawsuit | Latest on California wildfires | Walden won't seek reelection | Park Service scraps plan to charge protesters for security MORE has repeatedly sought to assign primary blame for the crisis to Snyder. He has accepted blame and apologized but also said the EPA was significantly responsible for not better policing the state.

This week marks two years since Flint, under the control of an emergency manager appointed by Snyder, switched its water source to the Flint River to save money.

The switch set off numerous contamination problems, the most significant of which was lead from the water pipes, caused by the corrosive water that lacked proper treatment. State officials repeatedly downplayed residents’ concerns about the quality of the water. 

After the crisis got national attention last year, the city and state have worked to return Flint to its former water source and repair the pipes. The water is improving but is still not safe to drink.

Obama declared a federal emergency in Flint earlier this year, which has allowed federal agencies, led by the Department of Health and Human Services, to bring bottled water and filters to the city.

Obama visited the Detroit Auto Show in January but did not go to Flint, instead promising he would “have the backs of Flint’s people” in a speech.

“I know that if I was a parent up there [in Flint], I would be beside myself that my kids’ health could be at risk,” Obama said in Detroit. “It is a reminder of why you can’t shortchange basic services that we provide to our people and that we, together, provide as a government to make sure that the public health and safety is preserved.”