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Michigan National Guard Finally Steps in to Help Flint During Its Water Crisis

As citizens from Michigan and elsewhere continue to volunteer their time and money.

The Flint River in Flint, Michigan. Image via Wikimedia Commons user U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder ordered the Michigan National Guard to the city of Flint late Tuesday, to aid residents in an ongoing water crisis. Flint’s tap water has been contaminated with dangerous levels of lead since the summer of 2014, when a state-appointed emergency manager shifted the source of the city’s supply in an attempt to save money.

National Guard members began arriving Wednesday, and will help distribute bottled water, filters and other supplies to residents.

“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 Wednesday. “However, we also need federal assistance as we continue to cope with this man-made water disaster.”

Weaver officially declared a state of emergency in Flint on December 14, though local officials declared a public health emergency in October, when tests first found that Flint’s children had elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of lead-contaminated water. According to the World Health Organization, lead exposure in childhood leads to reduced IQ, shortened attention span, and antisocial behaviors. Lead exposure is also associated with anemia, hypertension, and renal impairment. “The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible,” the WHO writes on its website.

Image via Twitter

As Flint waits for more federal aid, citizens—in Michigan and elsewhere—are stepping in to help. The Bottles for the Babies initiative, run by a woman from a Flint suburb, has raised more than $30,000 and distributed more than 16,000 bottles of water throughout the city. (The initiative is still raising money via its GoFundMe page.) The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan is taking donations of bottled water and has served as a central distribution point for needed provisions. And the United Way and Catholic Charities are using money donated online to buy and hand out supplies on the ground in Flint.

A local Girl Scout Brownie troop has also stepped in, writing letters to Governor Snyder that urge more action. “I am so mad what happn in flint [sic],” one Brownie wrote. “It is bad for kids. …I hope you fix this problom.”

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