Flint mayor welcomes National Guard help
Flint — The city’s mayor said Wednesday that while she appreciates Gov. Rick Snyder’s order to activate the Michigan National Guard to help with the water crisis, Flint will need more assistance.
Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement that the city needs federal assistance “to cope with this man-made water disaster.”
The comment came as about a half-dozen National Guard representatives arrived Wednesday, ahead of a larger contingent that will help distribute bottled bottled water, filters and other supplies to residents, according to Lt. Col. William Humes.
About 30 cars were parked outside Fire Station 6 early Wednesday afternoon where five guardsmen joined 10 American Red Cross volunteers in handing out water, filters or both. By 1 p.m., volunteers had given away 900 cases of bottled water and had run out of filters once, though the supply was replenished. They were on pace to distribute 2,000 cases.
The firefighters pulled an ambulance out of the building to make room for the workers and their pallets loaded with water bottles.
Army Sgt. Steve Kiger of Harrison, a full-time member of the Michigan National Guard at the Saginaw post, was among the first soldiers deployed to the Flint fire stations. Kiger said there will eventually be about 35 guardsmen working at the Flint fire stations.
“I’m here until we finish the mission,” he said.
Roughly 30 guardsmen will be in place by Friday, enabling Red Cross volunteers to join door-to-door efforts already underway instead of staffing water distribution sites where residents can pick up free bottled water, filters, replacement cartridges and home water testing kits.
Snyder’s decision to use the guard comes after about 45 Michigan State Police troopers and other state workers began Tuesday distributing water and filters to residents without them because of the lead poisoning crisis.
Flint, operating under a state-appointed emergency manager at the time, began using the Flint River for drinking water in April 2014 after disconnecting from the Detroit water system’s Lake Huron. Residents immediately complained about the taste, odor and discoloration.
Independent scientists eventually discovered high levels of lead in the water, and the state health department confirmed the findings Oct. 1. Flint was reconnected to the Detroit water system in mid-October, but state officials said this week the city’s drinking water still is not considered safe.
Snyder last week declared a state of emergency in Flint and has since ramped up aid efforts.
The Associated Press contributed.