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Michigan Fails to Hand Out Bottled Water in Lead-Poisoned Flint

The governor declared a state of emergency over lead levels, but has not provided bottled water.

Michigan has declared the Flint water crisis an emergency — but the state has not yet provided bottled water even though lead levels are still high.

Churches and other organizations have been left to fill the gap. A local sheriff who began distributing filters on his own discovered two out of three homes visited did not have them yet.

The Rev. Bobby Jackson of the Mission of Hope has handed out hundreds of bottles of free water to people coming from all over Flint on bikes and on foot because they can't afford to buy their own.

"It's all come from donations," he told NBC News.

After the mission ran dry, another church, First Trinity Baptist, took collection money and rushed out to buy two pallets, and dropped some off with Jackson on Friday.

Catrina Tillman, the wife of First Trinity's pastor, said she did not understand how the governor could declare a state of emergency but not arrange to have water distributed.

"It's kind of embarrassing," Tillman said. "The state of Michigan is surrounded by five lakes, so you wouldn't think water would be an issue, but somehow it is."

A brewery in North Carolina plans to ship more than 50,000 cans of water to Flint next week.

"When you have the ability to do something and the time and energy to do it, it's important to help out folks that are in need,” said Aaron Baker, marketing manager for Oskar Blues.

The water crisis began in April 2014 after Flint switched sources for its water supply to save money. The new water was saltier and corroded old pipes, allowing lead to leach into the system and poison children.

Flint has now switched back to its old water source, but the lead levels are still high, leaving anyone who drinks from a tap — especially youngsters — at risk.

At a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder said he is working on a plan to get more water and water filters to the 100,000 people of Flint, but provided no specifics or timetable.

Late Friday, a spokesman said the state will release more details this week on efforts to distribute water, filters and testing kits.

The state has handed out 11,587 filters so far and will go door-to-door if necessary to make sure people have the devices and have installed them correctly, the governor's office said in statement.

Meanwhile, the city is working with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan to set up a water distribution site with the help of volunteers.

"We expect to amplify these efforts in the coming days as more community partners sign on. Right now, our main challenge is personnel and manpower," said Sean Kammer, assistant to the city administrator.

On Thursday, Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell mobilized reserve deputies and people sentenced to community service and dispatched them to hand out filters and bottled water.

His teams managed to visit 200 homes; two-thirds had no filters, he reported.

"We're going to do this until we get everyone in the city of Flint a filter," Pickell said.