President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration for the city of Flint, Michigan, where the water has become contaminated with lead.
Flint’s water became contaminated after a change in supplier in 2014. Corrosive water leached lead from old pipes into the water supply.
The emergency declaration will unlock $5 million in federal funding.
Earlier in the week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder had requested $31 million from the federal government.
Rick Snyder said the need in the city of almost 100,000 people “far exceeds the state’s capability” and sought a disaster declaration.
However, reports in Michigan said Barack Obama denied that request that would have freed up more than the $5 million, as such declarations are only made for natural disasters.
In October, testing revealed increased lead levels in water supplies and in children’s blood. Lead exposure can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children.
Before then, residents had complained of discolored water, bad smells and headaches and rashes from using the water from the city’s new supplier.
Flint switched its water source from the city of Detroit to the Flint River in 2014. It has since switched back to Detroit’s water.
Michigan’s attorney general has said he will investigate the water crisis to see whether any state laws were violated.
The lack of clean water in Flint “is a human tragedy in which families are struggling even with the most basic parts of daily life”, said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Rick Snyder has already declared an emergency in Flint due to the water situation. Local officials deemed it a public health emergency in October.
He has been criticized for his handling of the water crisis, with protesters calling for him to resign.
As a result of Barack Obama’s announcement, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will co-ordinate the response in Flint.
On January 16, Cher said she would donate bottled water to Flint residents, with some 180,000 bottles to be shipped.
“This is a tragedy of staggering proportion and shocking that it’s happening in the middle of our country,” the singer said.