WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will travel to Flint, Michigan, next week to meet with residents whose drinking water has been poisoned with lead for the past two years.
The White House said Wednesday in a Medium post that the president's visit was planned in response to a letter he received from 8-year-old Flint resident Mari Copeny, who wrote to the president saying she wanted to meet his wife.
Obama praised Copeny for traveling to Washington with her family for a congressional hearing with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) last month.
In a letter to Copeny, Obama said he was proud of her for speaking out.
"That’s why I want you to be the first to know that I’m coming to visit Flint on May 4th," the president wrote. "I want to make sure people like you and your family are receiving the help you need and deserve."
Flint's water has had dangerous lead levels since April 2014, when Snyder's administration oversaw the city's switch to the Flint River as its water source. State regulators told the city not to treat the water with anti-corrosion chemicals that could have prevented lead from leaching out of pipes made from the heavy metal.
Lead can cause permanent brain damage in children and a wide variety of other health problems. Paint and dust are the most common sources of exposure, but millions of homes across the country get water from lead pipes, which can be just as dangerous if the local utility doesn't treat the water correctly.
Snyder's government admitted the lead contamination in October after researchers showed the water change corresponded with an increase in blood lead levels among Flint children.
In January, the Obama administration declared an emergency in Flint and pledged $80 million in assistance for the state to make low-cost loans to municipalities with water infrastructure issues.
“Our children should not have to be worried about the water that they’re drinking in American cities," Obama said at the time. "That’s not something that we should accept.”
Snyder told the Detroit News Wednesday that he probably won't join Obama in Flint.
“I’ve got a pretty full schedule next week," he said. "That’s not currently a day I’m scheduled to be in Flint."