News / USA

    Obama: Flint's Water Crisis 'Inexplicable and Inexcusable'

    Water is donated to Flint, Michigan, for residents unable to drink water from their pipes.
    Water is donated to Flint, Michigan, for residents unable to drink water from their pipes.
    Ken Schwartz

    President Barack Obama said Wednesday that it is "inexplicable and inexcusable" that residents of Flint, Michigan, were not immediately informed about lead in their drinking water.

    "That shouldn't happen anywhere," Obama told CBS television.

    On January 16, Obama declared a federal emergency in Flint, freeing up to $5 million in federal aid to help solve the health crisis, but he denied Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's request for a disaster declaration because the contamination was a man-made problem and therefore didn't meet the definition of a "major disaster" under federal law.

    "What is inexplicable and inexcusable is once people figured out that there was a problem, and that there was lead in the water, the notion that immediately families weren't notified, things weren't shut down," Obama told CBS.

    As Obama headed Wednesday to Detroit, Michigan, to celebrate the re-emergence of the U.S. auto industry, a White House spokesman said Obama was "concerned" that such a self-inflicted public health issue as the one in Flint could occur in the United States. But Obama had no plans to visit Flint, a city not far from Detroit.

    President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, Jan. 20, 2016, at the United Auto Workers-General Motors Center for Human Resources in Detroit.
    President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, Jan. 20, 2016, at the United Auto Workers-General Motors Center for Human Resources in Detroit.

    The financially ailing city of Flint switched its normal supply of tap water from nearby Detroit’s system to the even-closer Flint River in 2014 to save money. That water caused dangerous lead in the aging pipes to leach into the city's drinking water.

    Lead can cause brain damage, behavior problems and learning disabilities in children. 

    Flint switched back to Detroit water last October, but the pipes continue to leach lead, and Flint residents are relying on bottled water until the problem is fixed.

    Apologies, funding

    Snyder — who is facing protests, lawsuits and calls for his resignation over the contamination issue — said state and federal agencies failed to identify and solve the problem after it emerged in April 2014. He has apologized to the residents of Flint. 

    "Government failed you — federal, state and local leaders — by breaking the trust you placed in us," Snyder said during his annual State of the State address Tuesday.

    Snyder called for the state to spend $28 million on fixes. The Michigan House approved the funding request Wednesday.

    He promised to continue deliveries of water and filters so that everyone in the city has clean water. 

    Snyder said the state of Michigan already has dedicated $9 million to making sure people get bottled water, and for replacing fixtures in schools and treating children with elevated lead levels.

    Representative Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Flint, said in an interview the $28 million sought by Snyder would not be enough to address Flint's long-term problems — including aiding as many as 9,000 children who may have suffered lead poisoning.

    "These kids are going to need help for a long time," Kildee said. Snyder and the legislature need to "step up" and provide funding for long-term efforts beyond fixing the water system.

    Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

    You May Like

    Can EU Survive a Brexit?

    Across Europe politicians are asking if the British vote to leave the European Union will set in motion dynamics that will see other member states leave too

    Video Entrepreneurs at Global Summit Tackle Range of Challenges

    Innovators strive to halt sexual harassment in India, improve rural health in Myanmar, build businesses in Africa

    Key African Anti-Venom About to Permanently Run Out

    The tale of Fav-Afrique’s demise is a complicated one that reflects a deeper crisis brewing in global public health

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    January 30, 2016 7:14 PM
    If a terrorist organization poisoned an American city's water supply, we send our military halfway around the world to annihilate them. Why is this any different? IMO those who engineered this entirely unnecessary fiasco are no different from terrorists themselves and should be treated the same way we treat other terrorists. Why is that wrong?

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    January 21, 2016 11:44 AM
    Obama's response to Flint's water crisis and Detroit's for that matter is as reprehensible as President Bush's response to the victims of hurricane Katrina. I don't see any difference.
    In Response

    by: Blanknewt
    January 30, 2016 8:14 AM
    Bush didn't take 15 months to declare New Orleans emergency. But he waited too long. Why Obama own environmental agency said water was safe. Someone has to go to jail

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    January 21, 2016 11:36 AM
    "Flint's Water Crisis is 'Inexplicable and Inexcusable"

    It is entirely explainable and it's more than inexcusable, it's criminal and deserves prosecution and prison time not to mention a good target for a lot of large law suits.

    The explanation is that in the US, the government has failed to respond to the needs of most Americans at every level and in every way. It is being run by people who are both incompetent and whose only concern is their own power and money. It is unresponsive even in a crisis. Why did it take so long to respond. Why did it fight every effort to get a response sooner? Where were Michigan's Governor, Senators, Representatives in both the state legislature and House of Representatives? Where was EPA, the board of health, President Obama? Out playing golf?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Britain’s Vote to Leave EU Sends Shockwaves Through Global Marketsi
    X
    June 24, 2016 10:43 AM
    Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union is sending shockwaves through global markets. Markets from Tokyo to Europe tumbled Friday under the uncertainty the ballot brings, while regional leaders in Asia took steps to limit the possible fallout. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Britain’s Vote to Leave EU Sends Shockwaves Through Global Markets

    Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union is sending shockwaves through global markets. Markets from Tokyo to Europe tumbled Friday under the uncertainty the ballot brings, while regional leaders in Asia took steps to limit the possible fallout. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.
    Video

    Video During Ramadan, Faith and Football Converge in Lebanon’s Megadome

    In Beirut, a group of young entrepreneurs has combined its Muslim faith and love of football to create the city's newest landmark: a large, Ramadan-ready dome primed for one of the biggest football (soccer) tournaments in the world. But as the faithful embrace the communal spirit of Islam’s holy month, it is not just those breaking their fasts that are welcome.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora