Federal state of emergency ends in Flint as researchers say water crisis in recovery

Volunteers distribute bottled water to help combat the effects of the crisis when the city's drinking water became contaminated with dangerously high levels of lead in Flint, Michigan, March 5, 2016. Photo By Jim Young/Reuters

A federal state of emergency imposed this year after residents of Flint, Michigan, were exposed to widespread lead contamination in their water supply ended on Sunday, leaving some of the financial repercussions from the health emergency in the hands of state officials.

The end of the declaration comes after researchers at Virginia Tech on Thursday noted that the city's water quality had improved, referencing testing conducted in 162 randomly selected homes in Flint since August 2015, according to the Associated Press.

The study found 45 percent of the homes in Flint did not have detectable levels of lead last month, a rise from 9 percent of homes tested last summer.

A team of researchers, led by civil engineer professor Marc Edwards, broke open the details of the disaster in January, revealing that many of Flint's 100,000 residents had been exposed to high levels of lead in the water supply. President Barack Obama soon declared a state of emergency in Michigan, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide up to $5 million in federal assistance.

A sign is seen next to a water dispenser at North Western High School in Flint, a city struggling with the effects of lead-poisoned drinking water in Michigan, May 4, 2016. Photo By Carlos Barria/Reuters

In April 2014, the municipality began using the Flint River for its water source as a cost-saving measure. The waterway has borne the effects of pollution from heavy industrialization in the city. The city's water supply had previously come from Lake Huron via Detroit.

Until Sunday, the federal government covered 75 percent of the costs of supplying clean water to Flint residents, but those costs will now be under the purview of the state.

Despite the recent findings showing improvements in the water supply, Edwards on Thursday encouraged residents to continue drinking filtered or bottled tap water, the Associated Press reported.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease control lead can be particularly harmful to children's health and can effect their physical and mental development.

"This is nearing the end of the beginning of the end of the public health disaster response," Edwards said. "Flint water now looks like it's entering a range that's considered normal for other U.S. cities."

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