Obama drinks water in Flint after Michigan lead scandal

US President Barack Obama drank a glass of filtered water Wednesday in Flint, Michigan, to demonstrate it is safe, after steps were taken to address lead-tainted water that risked health problems in the city.

Obama sought to reassure residents that the US government had not forgotten them.

"I am confident that Flint will come back," Obama 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."

He blamed the tragedy in part on broader political attitudes that demonize the role of government, stressing the importance of government in providing basic services.

Obama met with local leaders and residents, including an 8-year-old girl who had written to him about the water in her town.

Obama sought to reassure residents that environmental officials had cleared filtered water for drinking by most residents, taking public drinks of the water both during a meeting with leaders and during his speech.

"Can I get some water?" Obama declared to applause after suffering a coughing fit during his remarks.

He urged residents to seek medical attention for their children who had been exposed to led, stressing that it need not consign them to a lifetime of problems despite being tied to developmental problems.

"I don't want anybody to start thinking that somehow all the kids in Flint are going to have problems for the rest of their lives, because that's not true," Obama said, noting that most current adults were exposed to some lead as children before its widespread use in household products was banned in the 1980s.

"And I don't want that stigma to be established in the minds of kids."

The Michigan attorney general announced multiple felony charges last month against two state environmental officials and a local water system administrator over the lead contamination scandal.

The water problem has rocked the community, about 100 kilometres north-east of Detroit. Residents were outraged to learn that Flint's water system became tainted by lead when the city switched to a local water supply.

There have been calls for the governor to resign, and presidential candidates have made their own trips to Flint to draw attention to the issue during the current campaign.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25
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