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Obama taps HHS to lead efforts in Flint

The Obama administration has tapped HHS to help lead the federal coordination of emergency recovery efforts for Flint, Mich.'s contaminated water, the agency said Tuesday.

President Barack Obama on Saturday declared a federal emergency, but not a major disaster, in Flint. The emergency finding frees $5 million in immediate aid with the possibility of more assistance about which the president would need to alert Congress.

Health and Human Services officials will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which already has been helping Gov. Rick Snyder's administration with coordinating help from other federal agencies.

"The goal of the federal response will be to help state and local leaders identify the size and scope of the problem, and work with them to make and execute a plan for mitigation of the short- and long-term health effects of lead exposure," department Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield said in a blog post. "HHS will have a team on the ground in Flint this week."

Flint's water has had elevated levels of lead after the corrosive Flint River water caused lead connections to leech into the drinking water. In mid-October, the city switched back to the Detroit water system's Lake Huron for drinking water, but state officials still consider the drinking water unsafe.

Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, will travel to Flint Wednesday to start working with state and local officials, Wakefield said.


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