In the face of widespread criticism of his handling of the Flint water crisis, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan announced Monday that he will drink and cook with filtered water from Flint for a full month.
The crisis, which saw elevated levels of lead and various other contaminants leak into the city’s water supply following a state-approved switch of water sources in 2014, has led to loud outcry and anger from the public, while demanding Snyder leave office. Rather than pack his bags, Snyder has opted to display the new safety of the city’s water supply through participatory politics. In order to keep appraised of the situation in Flint and remain stocked on water throughout the month, Mr. Snyder will make regular trips to the city.
The recent improvements in Flint’s drinking water are a result of filters that were widely distributed to the city’s residents in an effort to reduce the harmful effects of the contamination. Snyder said that he hoped his decision to drink the city’s water would “alleviate some of the skepticism and mistrust” that has marked the public response to the cleanup efforts, which have still failed on a PR level.
“Flint residents said that they would like to see me personally drink the water, so today I am fulfilling that request,” Snyder said in a statement.
— Governor Rick Snyder (@onetoughnerd) April 18, 2016
To kick off his campaign, Snyder picked up his first batch of water from a Flint home where tests of untreated water once came back with remarkably high levels of lead.
Despite expert consensus on the filtered water’s safety, many residents continue to avoid consuming anything from the water supply, and some continue to resist showering in it. The public skepticism of the government’s work has led to anxiety in the state house, where many worry that avoidance of the water will only drag out the city’s recovery.
State Senator Jim Ananich, who represents Flint and criticized the government’s response to the crisis, claimed to be happy to hear of Snyder’s decision to drink the water, saying it would “give him a little taste of what the people in Flint have been living with.”
Despite this, Ananich did criticize the theater of Snyder’s move, as he believes that the governor’s time could be better spent securing financing from Congress to fund recovery efforts.
Early in the crisis, Mr. Snyder’s premature claims of the water’s safety led to similarly pointed criticism from the residents of Michigan. While he has apologized on numerous occasions for his office’s bungling of the crisis, he has resisted calls to resign, claiming that his faltering was a product of bad information fed to him by state scientists. The documentation of elevated lead levels in children led in part to a state investigation and the firing of one state worker.
The governor plans on using water from throughout the Flint area both at his home and at his offices in order to ensure the entirety of the city’s residents that the filters are doing their job.
Ari Adler, a spokesman for Mr. Snyder, said, “We need to get people to understand that the filters are making the water safe.” He added, “There is a hesitancy there, and I understand that.”
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