According to reports, the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget brought water coolers into the Flint state building because of concern over the city’s water quality one year before bottled water was made available to the city’s residents.
A Jan. 7, 2015 notice from the department referenced a notice about a violation of drinking water standards that had recently been issued by the the city of Flint, reported Progress Michigan as cited by ThinkProgress.
“While the City of Flint states that corrective actions are not necessary, DTMB is in the process of providing a water cooler on each occupied floor, positioned near the water fountain, so you can choose which water to drink,” the notice read.
“The coolers will arrive today and will be provided as long as the public water does not meet treatment requirements."
The water source for Flint was changed from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014, according to Think Progress, which caused lead to get into the tap water. Following two boil advisories in the summer of 2014, Flint residents were notified that the level of trihalomethanes in the water supply had exceeded federal limits.
Despite that notice and the fact that TTHMs can cause liver and kidney issues, it was deemed safe to use the water, but state employees were still provided bottled water from coolers.
“Sadly, the only response was to protect the [Gov. Rick] Snyder administration from future liability and not to protect the children of Flint,” Progress Michigan executive director Lonnie Scott said.
“While residents were being told to relax and not worry about the water, the Snyder administration was taking steps to limit exposure in its own building.”
A lead advisory was eventually issued in late 2015 after lead was discovered in children’s blood, with residents being instructed not to drink the water.
Flint’s mayor subsequently issued a state of emergency, and the National Guard began distributing water a full year after the coolers were provided to state employees out of concern over the water quality.