The water emergency in Flint, Mich., is two years in the making. Here are the people who've played a key role in the crisis. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo said Tuesday that they will donate up to 6.5 million bottles of water to schoolchildren in Flint, Mich., to help with the city’s public health crisis over lead-contaminated water.

The companies announced in a news release that they are planning to “collectively donate water to meet the daily needs of over 10,000 school children for the balance of the calendar year.” To do so, the companies will send 176 truckloads of bottled water — up to 6.5 million bottles — to Flint.

“We are grateful for Walmart and their suppliers’ support during this crisis,” Bilal Tawwab, Flint Community Schools Superintendent, said in a statement. “With their generous support, District students will have access to clean drinking water, and more importantly, the ability to focus on their education.”

[This is how toxic Flint’s water really is]

In April 2014, Flint stopped drawing its water from Detroit and began pulling water from the Flint River. Residents soon began complaining that the water smelled or was discolored. In October, Flint again began getting water from Detroit but, by that time, some residents had been drinking the water for 19 months.

Researchers found elevated levels of lead in Flint’s water supply and reported that blood tests revealed that lead contamination had nearly doubled and tripled in children younger than 5 who were exposed to the highest lead levels.

The city and state have since declared a public-health emergency.

[With attention on Flint, questions arise about water in an Ohio village]

Officials at Walmart said the water crisis has become personal.

“Those affected include our own associates, customers and their families,” said Beth Harris, store manager at a Flint Walmart, said in the statement. “Our associates are proud to be a part of the effort to help our friends and neighbors.”

Take a look at the key moments that led up to Flint, a city of 90,000, getting stuck with contaminated water. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

Business and community leaders will announce the donation at the Walmart Supercenter in Flint.

 

“Access to safe water is a basic human right,” Tony West, executive vice president of government affairs at PepsiCo, said in the statement, adding that the donation announced Tuesday “will allow Flint school children and their parents to focus on their education rather than where they can find clean water.”

Walmart said in the news release that it has “already donated 14 trucks of water, or 504,000 bottles, and 1,792 water filters to the Flint community” since July. It noted that Coca-Cola has donated nearly 80,000 bottles of Dasani and that Nestlé Waters North America has donated more than 190,000 bottles to Flint community organizations.

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Cher, Lions player among those stepping up to help Flint water crisis. You can, too.

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‘I let you down.’ Michigan governor apologizes for Flint water crisis, says he’ll release emails