Sipping filtered city water to show it's again drinkable, President Obama promised Wednesday to ride herd on leaders at all levels of government until every drop of water flowing into homes in Flint, Mich., is safe to use. He also promised that the aging pipes that contaminated the water with lead will be replaced, but he cautioned that the project will take time, the AP reports. Obama said he wanted to use the crisis to make long-term improvements to the city, where more than 40% of residents live in poverty. "It's not going to happen overnight, but we have to get started," he told hundreds of people gathered in a high school gym. The president spoke after he was briefed on the federal response to the water contamination and had met privately with nine residents.
"I've got your 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." He called providing safe drinking water a basic responsibility of government. And while he said he didn't want to go over every "screw-up that resulted in contaminated water," he blamed an overarching attitude that less government is better. "It's an ideology that undervalues the common good," Obama said. After coughing several times during his remarks, the president asked for and drank from a glass of water. (An 8-year-old girl known as "Little Miss Flint" asked Obama to visit the city.)