The water crisis in Flint, MI, hit new levels on Wednesday, as members of the National Guard arrived in the city to help distribute water supplies to local residents.
The city has suffered for more than a year from dangerous levels of lead in its public water. The situation started in 2014, when Flint switched its public water supply from the Detroit water system to the local Flint River in an effort to save money. The river, historically polluted by industrial waste, produced water that was discolored and foul-smelling. More damningly, in September a report found that the levels of lead in young children's blood had more than doubled since the switch.
Despite enormous levels of outrage from residents, officials repeatedly insisted that the water was safe to drink. The crisis only came to national attention in mid-December, after Mayor Karen Weaver issued an official declaration of a state of emergency over the city's drinking water. In the statement, she called the situation a "man-made disaster" and the damage irreversible. Testing has found that the tap water is extremely contaminated with lead, which can cause serious brain damage, especially in children.
To add insult to literal injury, the city has started to send overdue payment notices that threaten to cut off water service. Flint is still charging residents for its toxic water.
Since Wednesday, National Guard members and FEMA have been in the city, dispersing supplies of bottled water and lead filters to citizens. The following images that have emerged — of uniformed troops bearing disaster supplies, of distraught citizens — show just how dire the situation has become.