Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is drinking filtered water from a Flint homeowner's tap to show Flint residents he's willing to have a taste of the crisis his government caused in the beleaguered city.
"Flint residents made it clear that they would like to see me personally drink the water, so today I am fulfilling that request," Snyder said in a Monday press release. "And I will continue drinking Flint water at work and at home for at least 30 days.”
Six months after the government told Flint residents not to drink the water, testing by independent experts and the government shows that Flint's water is still unsafe if it's not filtered.
High lead levels have poisoned the city's water since 2014, when the city started pumping water from the Flint River instead of buying it from Detroit. Snyder's government told Flint not to treat the water to prevent it from leaching lead out of the city's pipes. Lead is a deadly neurotoxin that can cause a host of health problems even in low doses.
Snyder is drinking water from a home with lead levels that exceed federal standards, his office said. The home's kitchen tap has a filter certified to remove lead, though the homeowner is still worried whether it is safe to drink. By posing for photos while drinking the water, Snyder is hoping to allay those concerns.
"I completely understand why some Flint residents are hesitant to drink the water and I am hopeful I can alleviate some of the skepticism and mistrust by putting words to action,” Snyder said in the release.
The Environmental Protection Agency has tested filtered water from dozens of Flint homes and said the filters have been effective. Some homes, however, have more lead in their water than filters can handle -- both Snyder's government and the EPA have said everyone should get their taps tested.
In addition to encouraging people to trust their filters, Snyder is trying to get Flint residents to use more tap water -- as opposed to bottled water -- to help speed up the improvement of the city's water infrastructure. Despite their widespread use across the country, lead pipes are never totally safe for drinking water. Lead pipes can only be made less dangerous by treating the water so it forms a protective coating on the interior of the pipes. Flint has been trying to rebuild that coating since it was badly damaged by the 2014 water source change, but if consumers aren't drawing enough water through the system, it will take longer for the pipes to be deemed safe enough again.
Snyder vowed to drink Flint water at work and at home in Ann Arbor and to refill jugs each week when he visits Flint. The gesture recalls former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling's infamous toast when the city changed water sources in 2014.