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Michigan National Guard members assisting Flint residents in water crisis

By Lt. Col. William Humes | Michigan National Guard | January 19, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - Members of the Michigan National Guard have been on duty in Flint, distributing water to city residents, since Gov. Rick Snyder activated them Jan. 13.

Guard members are assigned to five water distribution sites at fire stations in Flint and are helping distribute water and filters to residents in need.

More than 70 Guard members are on duty, according to the National Guard Bureau.

News reports say that Flint's drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city switched its supply source in 2014 from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to more corrosive and polluted Flint River water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant.

Said USA Today: "The switch was made as a cost-cutting move while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The state Department of Environmental Quality has acknowledged a mistake in failing to require the addition of needed corrosion-control chemicals to the water. That caused lead, which causes brain damage and other health problems in children, to leach into the water from pipes and fixtures."

"This is a great opportunity for our members of the Michigan Guard to help out the citizens of Flint," said Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, director for the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs and adjutant general of the Michigan Guard. "One of the core functions of the Michigan Guard is providing assistance to the governor and we are trained and ready to assist."

 "Our mission is to assist with distribution at the fire stations and free up other support agencies to expand their operations," said Maj. John Keelean, officer in charge of the Soldiers providing support.

Contributing: Steve Marshall of the National Guard Bureau