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Flint residents don't trust Gov. Snyder to fix their lead-tainted tap water

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan’s governor has promised people living in Flint he will fix their tainted drinking water.

But many residents in the city of 100,000 don’t believe him. There’s increasing distrust as concerns about lead in the tap water have worsened in the last six months.

During his State of the State address last night, Gov. Rick Snyder apologized. He said he was sorry for mistakes that allowed corrosive river water to damage Flint’s water pipes – which allowed lead to leach into the city’s tap water.

Experts say it’ll take years to fix. The governor says it’ll get done.

“I want to speak directly and honestly and sincerely to let you know we are praying for you, we are working hard for you, and we are absolutely committed to taking the right steps to effectively solve this crisis,” Snyder told the audience at the state Capitol.

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
More Michigan Army National Guard soldiers will soon help more people in Flint get the clean water they need

But people in Flint have heard promises and apologies from this governor before.

As Wednesday dawned, a light snow was falling. It was just enough to make sidewalks slippery – not ideal for carrying heavy cases of bottled water.

A steady stream of bundled-up people stopped by Fire Station  No. 3 on Martin Luther King Avenue. It’s one of five distribution sites where National Guardsmen were handing out bottled water, along with filters and lead testing kits.

Josie Perry just needed a case of water. She appreciates it, though she doesn’t think anything’s really changed. 

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Volunteers at Saints of God Church in Flint load cases of bottled water into the rear hatch of a car.

“Apology, OK. But that doesn’t clear my water,” says Perry as she carries a case of water to her car.

“And it’s sad that they’ll still making us pay for this poisoned water, or we’re going to shut you off. So now you want me to pay you for something I can’t even use.  This is crazy.”

Gulunda Holmes was also picking up water today. She says she can’t trust Gov. Snyder when he says he plans to spend millions to fix the problem.

“I don’t believe him,” says Holmes.

With faith in government shaken, some people in Flint are turning to a higher power.

“Heavenly Father, we thank you for this day and its many blessings,” intoned Pastor Alfred Harris.  

The Wednesday morning Bible study was wrapping up at Saints of God Church in Flint, as Harris lead about two dozen people in a closing prayer:

With the prayer concluded, it was time to roll out the water. 

Two church volunteers maneuvered a dolly laden with a dozen cases of water down a slick ramp to the church parking lot. A line of cars was already waiting.

Saints of God is one of many Flint-area churches that’s handing out water to those who can’t afford to buy bottled water, even if they could find it on local store shelves.

Pastor Harris says he’s waiting to see how the governor acts now to see if he can be trusted to fulfill his promise to fix Flint’s water.

And as for the governor’s apologies?

“In the realm of Christianity, we forgive those who ask for forgiveness we are commanded to do that by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” says Harris. “But we also know that the changes must be made that are going to help fix this problem.”

When asked if he has faith the governor will fix the problem, Pastor Harris would only say he “has faith in God.” 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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