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Thursday, May 5, 2016

President Obama visits Flint; response mixed

President Obama visited Flint, Michigan Thursday to speak to the residents who have been plagued with the consequences stemming from lead in their drinking water.  The crisis was uncovered, in part, by scientists at Virginia Tech in early 2016 and made national headlines shortly after.  Flint residents, however, have complained about the water for nearly two years.

President Obama speaks to Flint residents on Flint's water crisis.  (Photo/CNN)

Flint's pipes were found to be corroded as a result of a money-saving decision not to use anti-corrosive chemicals to treat the water.  That decision backfired terribly. Flint residents have reported different reactions after drinking the water that include skin rasheslegions and headaches.  At least one Michigan resident reportedly was diagnosed with 5 times normal lead levels, causing him excruciating pain and suffering.

SEE: The Flint 100 

“The Flint water crisis has been called a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction and environmental injustice,” co-chair of a task force and president of Michigan Environmental Council, Chris Kolb said.

Others have called it an 'environmental injustice.'

Flint's water crisis has created the Twitter hastag #FlintWaterCrisis and has caused for the state's govenor, Rick Synder, to step down.  Three Flint water officials have been charged, Synder was not one of them (to date).   One official recently copped a deal with law enforcement officials.

WATCH: How Synder's inner circled handled Flint's water crisis.

The town of Flint has been inundated by the outpouring of good will from across the country.  The crisis has prompted individuals, groups, celebrities and college students to donate bottled water and water filters to the residents.

On Thursday President Obama visited Flint, Michigan to hear first-hand from Flint residents, was "briefed on the federal efforts in place to help respond to the needs of the people of Flint" and delivered remarks to the community.  The visit was inspired partly from a letter he received from 8 year-old Flint resident Mari Copeny (aka 'Little Miss Flint') who wrote the president about the drinking water crisis.

Writes Copeny:
Mr. President, 
Hello my name is Mari Copeny and I’m 8 years old, I live in Flint, Michigan and I’m more commonly known around town as “Little Miss Flint”. I am one of the children that is effected by this water, and I’ve been doing my best to march in protest and to speak out for all the kids that live here in Flint. This Thursday I will be riding a bus to Washington, D.C. to watch the congressional hearings of our Governor Rick Snyder. I know this is probably an odd request but I would love for a chance to meet you or your wife. My mom said chances are you will be too busy with more important things, but there is a lot of people coming on these buses and even just a meeting from you or your wife would really lift people’s spirits. Thank you for all that do for our country. I look forward to being able to come to Washington and to be able to see Gov. Snyder in person and to be able to be in the city where you live.

See:  President hugs Copeny

The president wrote back to 'Little Miss Flint' Copeny, telling her he planned to be in her city. While there the president held a town-hall styled meeting where he told residents that he 'has their backs.'

"I want all of you to know I am confident that Flint will come back", the president said.  "I will not rest, and I'm going to make sure that the leaders, at every level of government, don’t rest until every drop of water that flows to your homes is safe to drink and safe to cook with, and safe to bathe in because that's part of the basic responsibilities of a government in the United States of America."

Flint resident Gerry Woodberry shows affected skin from drinking toxic lead-based water.  Photo: Michigan Live.

The president then drank a glass of filtered water. While the president's remarks were mostly welcomed, and his administration's efforts to ensure water safety for all Americans is admirable, not everyone is satisfied with the president's speech to Flint residents.

Read: Little Miss Flint's mom speaks.

Documentary film producer Michael Moore said the president's speech disappointed him.

"I'm very dissapointed in this speech", Moore said in an interview with CNN.  "He's trying to reassure people that the water is safe when a number of experts still say that the water is not safe. It's still going through the same corroded lead pipes."

WATCH full interview here.

A $100 million water funding packing has been set aside to help repair Flint's water infrastructure, with $50 million to address health care needs.  The package was introduced in late April by Michigan representatives Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and received some pushback, but was finally agreed upon by Senate members who disagreed with the initial $250 million proposed funding package.

It is estimated that neither of these figures would be nearly enough to resolve Flint's water crisis.

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