Mich. State Workers in Flint Got Fresh Bottled Water 8 Months Before Residents Were Told Water Wasn’t Safe

In January 2015, state officials had coolers installed for state-employee use, some eight months before residents of the city were told that the water was unsafe to drink. 

Soldiers from the Michigan Army National Guard Flint prepare to give Flint, Mich., residents bottled water at a fire station Jan. 17, 2016, in Flint.
Soldiers from the Michigan Army National Guard Flint prepare to give Flint, Mich., residents bottled water at a fire station Jan. 17, 2016, in Flint. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

In January 2015, while cries from residents of Flint, Mich., that something was wrong with the tap water went ignored, state officials made provisions to have watercoolers installed at the State Office Building in Flint. It would be some eight months before city officials would admit that the tap water was unsafe to use, according to an email obtained by Progress Michigan, Vox reports.

Michigan began offering fresh bottled water to its workers after a notice, which was also sent to city residents, stated that the tap water “had unacceptable levels of total trihalomethanes—a chlorine byproduct that can cause cancer,” according to Vox. Residents were told that the water was safe and could still be consumed, even as Michigan began offering fresh bottled water to Flint state employees.

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the agency that manages state buildings, told the Associated Press that the watercoolers were introduced at the state building after Flint failed drinking water tests that had nothing to do with the lead issues that residents currently face.

“We have provided it continuously. That was a decision we made as the building owner” in Flint, Buhs said.

According to a report last year from MLive, notices that were sent to Flint residents in January noted that the drinking water tested showed elevated levels of trihalomethanes, which, in excessive amounts, can “cause liver, kidney or central nervous system problems and an increased risk of cancer.” The notices also said, however, that the tap water was safe for healthy people to drink.

On Thursday, Progress Michigan released emails showing that fresh water was being delivered to city and state officials shortly after the water test showed high levels of those chemical compounds.

When asked about the water deliveries on Friday, Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder told AP that he “had no knowledge of that taking place.”

The water crisis in Flint began in April 2014 after the city switched the water supply from the “Detroit municipal water system and began drawing from the Flint River in an attempt to save money,” AP reports.

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