Embattled Republican Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan has pledged to drink tap water straight out of Flint for 30 days.
The governor has pitched this as an act of solidarity to prove the once-contaminated water is improving, while some call it a publicity stunt to salvage his dented reputation.
In April 2014, Michigan state officials switched the drinking water source of Flint from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The river produced corrosive water that leached lead from the pipes of the Flint water system, leading to widespread lead contamination, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The Snyder administration was warned as early as 2014, but the governor did not declare of state of emergency until the majority of Flint residents had already been exposed to lead contamination. Lead can have devastating effects on young children, impairing brain functioning and behavior.
Snyder has been the focal point of public scorn for the public health disaster. Several petitions are circulating among Michigan residents to have the governor recalled on the November ballot.
“He’s getting the boot,” Anita Brown, a Detroit resident who is canvassing for one of the petitions, told The Guardian. “Put my name in big, blue writing: He’s out. He’s out of there.”
Snyder has refused to resign and instead pledged to spend the remainder of his term fixing Flint's water. Now, the governor has pledged to drink the water to reassure Flint residents it is being improved.
On April 18, the governor visited the home of Flint residents Cheryl Hill and Todd Canty. As his staff filled three gallon jugs with water straight from the couples’ faucet, Snyder outlined his plan to reporters.
“I’m going to start drinking this at home and work,” Snyder told MLive. “I’m going to be drinking Flint water for the next 30 days or so.”
Michigan officials have tried to offset the lead contamination in Flint’s water by treating its pipe system with phosphates. This process would be faster if the residents of Flint use their tap systems as much as possible, but many are hesitant, preferring to drink the bottled water distributed by the state.
“I completely understand why some Flint residents are hesitant to drink the water and I am hopeful I can alleviate some of the skepticism and mistrust by putting words to action,” Snyder said. “Flint residents made it clear that they would like to see me personally drink the water, so today I am fulfilling that request. And I will continue drinking Flint water at work and at home for at least 30 days.”
Some Flint residents were not impressed.
“His whole family has to drink it,” said Elizabeth Taylor, a Flint resident. “They have to cook with it and bathe with it. He thinks we just trust him because he says so?”