Rick Snyder Wants Obama To Drink Flint Water

The Michigan governor has been trying to get the city's residents to use their taps.
President Barack Obama is visiting Flint on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama is visiting Flint on Wednesday.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) hopes President Barack Obama has a drink when he visits Flint on Wednesday.

Snyder has been trying to get Flint residents to trust Environmental Protection Agency assurances that their water is safe to drink when it's filtered.

"We are hopeful the president will drink the water in Flint, to help reinforce Gov. Snyder’s actions and the EPA’s message that filtered Flint water is safe to drink," Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton told The Huffington Post in an emailed statement.

Testing shows unfiltered Flint water is still dangerous. High lead levels have poisoned residents' taps since the city started pumping from the Flint River in April of 2014 and failed to treat the water correctly.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of filters, Snyder drank from a Flint resident's tap last month. He vowed to continue to drink the city's water for at least 30 days.

Flint mayor Karen Weaver dismissed Snyder's water drinking as a publicity stunt. She urged people who are pregnant, nursing or under the age of 6 to keep drinking bottled water.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest suggested Monday that Obama wouldn't sample Flint's water during his visit.

“I’m not aware of any photo ops that involve the president’s consumption of the water,” Earnest said.

He added that Flint residents should follow the government's guidance on water consumption -- and Obama would do the same.

"I certainly would encourage people to listen to the advice that they get from our scientific and public health experts about what water is safe to drink and the president will certainly follow that advice," he said.

“I’m not aware of any photo ops that involve the president’s consumption of the water.”

The White House did not have any additional comment on the matter on Tuesday morning.

Flint residents might be a little skeptical of the government's advice on water because authorities insisted it was safe, even though it was brown and funky for 18 months. State regulators told the city not to treat the source water with anti-corrosion chemicals that can reduce the amount of metals leached from lead pipes connected to people's homes. Researchers discovered high amounts of lead in Flint kids' blood last fall, prompting Snyder's government to tell people not to drink the water and take emergency measures.

Lead is a deadly neurotoxin that can permanently damage children's developing brains. Lead poisoning has emerged as a possible explanation of surging crime rates in the 20th century.

Snyder has repeatedly apologized for his government's handling of the Flint water crisis, though he has also blamed the EPA for not acting decisively when it learned of high lead levels in Flint's water last summer.

When Obama announced his Flint visit last week, Snyder initially said he wouldn't have time to meet with the president. The governor has since reversed course and said he wants to meet with Obama.

Snyder, Weaver and the EPA have been encouraging Flint residents to at least run their taps. Paradoxically, reduced water usage has slowed improvement to the city's water infrastructure.

"The very low water use rates in some Flint homes hinders recovery of the system due to the improved corrosion control," Virginia Tech researchers Kelsey Pieper and Marc Edwards wrote in a blog post last month. Pieper and Edwards are part of a team from the university that has been testing water samples from Flint homes. "Less water use means that the orthophosphate and chlorine added to help improve the water quality and reduce lead and bacteria, are not flowing through the homes as much as is desired."

Clarification: Because Siddhartha Roy's name appears on the Virginia Tech blog post, an earlier version of this story attributed the post to him instead of Kelsey Pieper and Marc Edwards.

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