President Barack Obama said the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, serves as a reminder of why the country "can't shortchange basic services," addressing the water situation Wednesday for one of the first times in a public speech. The president traveled to the state Wednesday to look into what led to the contaminated water problem that plagues the Genesee County city, according to the White House.
"If I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids' health could be at risk," Obama told a crowd in Detroit. "That's why over the weekend I declared a federal emergency in Flint to send more resources."
President Obama says as a dad, he'd be "beside himself" in Flint Michigan, over worries for his children's health.
— Michelle Kosinski (@MKosinskiCNN) January 20, 2016
Earlier this month, a state of emergency was called for the county after it was determined that the economically depressed city's water became contaminated after the city switched water supply companies in April 2014. Flint had bought its water from Lake Huron, through the city of Detroit, but terminated the relationship in order to save money, switching its water supply to the Flint River. After residents complained about the smell and look of the water, an investigation found high levels of iron in the river. Researchers found that the number of children with elevated lead levels in their blood doubled as a result of the crisis.
The National Guard was activated Tuesday to help distribute water and filters, but state lawmakers have called for more federal assistance. The Michigan House of Representatives allocated $28 million in emergency funding Wednesday to mitigate the crisis, but Flint Mayor Karen Weaver estimates the damages suffered by residents and infrastructure could be between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, reported CNN.
"I'm glad the state is putting in resources and we welcome the Michigan National Guard with open arms," Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement. "However, we also need federal assistance as we continue to cope with this man-made water disaster."
Before the Detroit news conference, the White House told reporters that the president is committed to helping deal with the crisis, according to the Associated Press.
"Clearly, the notification process is part of the problem here," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. "The president is absolutely determined to figure out what went wrong, generally speaking."