FLINT (WWJ) – A crowd in Flint Wednesday cheered as President Barack Obama paused, cleared his throat, and asked: “Can I get some water?”
Visiting the struggling city for the first time since the lead-tainted water crisis began, the President got an update from Mayor Karen Weaver, health department, EPA officials and others on Wednesday.
After later meeting with some Flint residents — including an 8-year-old girl who had written him a letter — Obama made a public speech at the city’s Northwestern High School.
“This should not have happened in the first place,” he said, to a round of applause. “Even though the scope of the response looks sort of like the efforts we’re used to seeing after a natural disaster — that’s not what this was.
“This was a man-made disaster…this was avoidable, this was preventable,” the President said.
He assured Flint residents that federal response teams have been working around the clock to make sure their daily needs are being taken care of.
“They’ve distributed enough water to fill over three Olympic-size swimming pools, they’ve distributed thousands of filters, they’re helping students afford nutritious foods that work against the contaminants in bad water,” Obama said. “They’re making sure new moms have access to instant infant formula that doesn’t require water. They’ve expanded health services for children and pregnant women, and education programs for Flint’s youngest children.”
Obama said that citizens across the nation care about what’s happening in Flint, imaging that it could have happened to them.
“You can’t have a democracy where people feel like they don’t count; that they’re not heard,” Obama said. “…Flint’s recovery is everyone’s responsibility. I am here to make sure that responsibility is met.”
Obama, who drank from a glass of filtered Flint water earlier in the day, stressed that the EPA has concluded that the water is safe for everyone except children under six and pregnant women, as long as a filter is used.