When Flint residents, who are mostly Black and/or living in poverty, began complaining that there was something seriously wrong with what was coming out of their faucets and showers, state officials told them that the water supply was fine and to appease their anxiety, gave them filters to take home.
However, leaked emails exposed by Progress Michigan show that during this same time in January 2015, by the urging of the Department of Environmental Quality, filtered water coolers were installed in the State Office Building in Flint and water bottles were passed out to their employees. A Jan 7, 2015 email confirmed as much:
“While the City of Flint states that corrective actions are not necessary, [the department] is in the process of providing a water cooler on each occupied floor, positioned near the water fountain, so you can choose which water to drink.”
Ironically, eight months later residents were told that they could no longer drink the city’s water which “had unacceptable levels of total trihalomethanes — a chlorine byproduct that can cause cancer,” Vox noted.
This new level of neglect has raised the alarm even higher.
“It appears the state wasn’t as slow as we first thought in responding the Flint Water Crisis. Sadly, the only response was to protect the Snyder administration from future liability and not to protect the children of Flint from lead poisoning,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.
He added, “While residents were being told to relax and not worry about the water, the Snyder administration was taking steps to limit exposure in its own building.”
State officials deny any accusations of withholding the truth from residents and reassure that these leaked emails can be easily explained.
Caleb Buhs, a spokesperson from the agency that manages state buildings said that the coolers were installed “after Flint had flunked some drinking water standards apart from the lead contamination that has caused the current crisis,” the Associated Press wrote.
But if that were the case, why would only the state building get fresh water options? Buhs says because that decision was made by the building owner and not the state.
Since Gov. Synder decided to switch Flint’s water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River, a body of water known to have copious amounts of trash, pollution and iron, there have been numerous reports of hair loss and rashes, thousands exposed to dangerous toxins and a whopping 9,000 children diagnosed with lead poisoning.
Even though the water was changed back last October, the supply still has major problems. On Friday, Jan 29, state officials announced that the levels of lead are still so high in Flint that they are urging all residents to get their water tested with free kits being passed out at local fire stations, writes the Detroit Press. Pregnant women and children 6 and under are asked to only drink bottled water in the meantime.