Pres. Barack Obama traveled to Flint, Mich., on Wednesday to meet with local and federal officials to discuss the water crisis there — and to reassure families that his administration is doing everything it can to make the water in Flint safe to drink.
To help illustrate his point, Obama drank from a glass of filtered water during a press briefing at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, which has become a hub for the response to the water crisis.
“Generally, I haven’t been doing stunts, but here you go,“ Obama said as he took a small sip of the water. “It just confirms what we know scientifically, which is, if you’re using a filter, if you’re installing it, then Flint water at this point is drinkable.”
The president, who declared a state of emergency for Flint in mid-January, was joined by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and nearly two dozen others at the press conference.
“Filtered water is safe, and it works,” he said. “Working with the state and the city, filters are now available for everyone in the city.”
Obama drinks filtered Flint, Mich., water during a briefing on the ongoing water crisis there, May 4, 2016. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)
Obama acknowledged there is “a lot of suspicion” over whether the water is safe, urging families to have their children checked by a doctor for elevated lead exposure.
“Kids are resilient,” he said. “Every kid in Flint is special and has the capacity to do great things.”
The president also acknowledged the process of repairing or replacing water pipes in the city may take two years or more, asking residents to turn on their water taps for five minutes a day to help clean out the system.
“We have to take what has been a crisis and turn this into an opportunity to rebuild Flint even better than before,” Obama said.
The president also visited a local high school, where he met with a small group of residents including Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha — the pediatrician credited with exposing the lead contamination in the Flint water supply — prior to delivering a speech in the school’s gymnasium.
But before Obama spoke, Governor Snyder approached the podium and was “instantly and loudly booed” by the crowd of about 1,000 people when his name was announced,” according to the pool report from a New York Times reporter traveling with the president:
A glass of filtered water from Flint, Mich., is the center of attention at a meeting between President Obama and state and local officials on the water crisis there. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)
The crowd refused to quiet down for several moments, even as Snyder tried to speak.
Snyder started by saying: “Let me begin by saying I understand why you are angry and frustrated. I want to come here today to apologize.” … The crowd got even angrier when Snyder said “we have a short-term water crisis” even as he continued that “we have a longer term issue about building a stronger city of Flint.”Snyder continued that “You didn’t create this problem. Government failed you.” Several people in the audience yelled, “You failed us!” Snyder continued that “I will apologize and work hard to fix that.”Snyder thanked [the president] for coming to Flint and for sending “outstanding people” to the city over the last several months.“I want to thank you for coming here today. This is an important moment to show how we can work together,” Snyder said.There was another eruption of loud boos when Snyder said: “Thank you for the opportunity to come share a few thoughts with you today.”He left the stage quickly.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder pauses as he speaks at Flint Northwestern High School on Wednesday. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)