Feds extend Flint emergency declaration until Aug. 14

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — The Obama administration on Friday extended through Aug. 14 an emergency declaration to address the Flint water contamination crisis but made clear the state should not expect another extension.

The extension will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to continue providing water, filters, cartridges and test kits “to ensure the health and safety of Flint residents,” Elizabeth Zimmerman, associate administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery, said in a letter to the state.

The letter indicated that state and federal environmental agencies “have determined that the rescaling of the water pipes to prevent further lead from leaching” into Flint drinking water is estimated to be completed by May, but health officials are expected to recommend that residents drink bottled or filtered water for another three months after that.

“In light of these extenuating circumstances, your request for an extension is approved,” Zimmerman told Michigan State Police Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security.

“…This is the final extension. No further extensions will be granted.”

Robert Kaplan, acting Region 5 administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said later Friday the agency has never projected a fixed date for rescaling Flint water pipes.

“EPA’s evaluation of the water system is ongoing, and is based on extensive and continuing sampling efforts,” Kaplan said in a statement. “… As EPA Administrator (Gina) McCarthy has said repeatedly, EPA is here for the people of Flint and we’re not leaving until the water system is back on track.”

President Barack Obama originally declared an emergency on Jan. 16, authorizing FEMA to coordinate relief efforts in Flint and Genesee County. The declaration paved the way for up to $5 million in federal assistance for water-related supplies.

FEMA spokeswoman Sandy Jasmund told The Detroit News that federal emergency declarations last a maximum of 90 days. They are extended on “a case by case basis,” she said.

Gov. Rick Snyder welcomed Friday’s extension.

“With this federal assistance, much-needed resources will continue to be available to Flint residents while this crisis exists,” he said in a statement. “We are working diligently with local, state and federal partners to ensure the people of Flint have access to quality drinking water at their homes as soon as possible.”

Snyder declared a state emergency on Jan. 5, weeks after his administration first outlined broad plans to address the water contamination crisis. The governor later extended that emergency declaration through April 14.

All levels of government have faced criticism for the Flint water crisis, but a task force appointed by the governor said this week that “the causes of the crisis lie primarily at the feet of the state” due to agency failures and misjudgment by emergency managers appointed to run the city.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, for instance, did not require the city to use corrosion control chemicals when it began drawing drinking water from the Flint River in August 2014. The harsh water damaged aging pipes that leached lead into the supply.


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