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Flint Residents Question Michigan Governor's Pledge To Fix Water Crisis


We're going to turn now to the water crisis in Flint, Mich. Its drinking water contains dangerously high levels of lead. Speaking in Detroit this afternoon, President Obama called the situation a terrible tragedy.


BARACK OBAMA: And I know that if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids health could be at risk.

SIEGEL: Michigan's governor has promised people in Flint that he will fix their tainted drinking water, but many don't believe him. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports on the distrust that's been growing over the last six months.

STEVE CARMODY, BYLINE: During his State of the State address last night, Governor 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 will take years to fix, and the governor says it will get done.


RICK SNYDER: I want to speak directly, 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.

CARMODY: But people in Flint have heard promises and apologies from this governor before. As today dawned, a light snow was falling, just enough to make sidewalks slippery - not ideal for carrying heavy cases of bottled water.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Thank you, Sweetie.



>>UNIDENTIFIED All right. You have a blessed day.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: You too. Thank you.

CARMODY: A steady stream of bundled-up people stopped by Fire Station Number Three on Martin Luther King Avenue. It's one of five distribution sites where national guardsmen are handing out bottled water along with filters and lead testing kits. Josie Perry just needed a case of water. She appreciates it, and she also doesn't think anything's really changed.

JOSIE PERRY: No, no. You know, apology - OK, but that doesn't clean my water. And it's sad that they're making us still go pay for this poison water, or we going to shut you off. So now you want me to pay you for something that I can't use. This is crazy.

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

GULUNDA HOLMES: I don't believe in, I mean, because in the beginning, it was already talked about that these things shouldn't be done with that Flint water. And it's just a waste of money switching back to Detroit instead of working towards fixing the pipes in the first place.

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

ALFRED HARRIS: Heavenly Father, we thank you for this day and for your many blessings.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Thank you, God.


CARMODY: The Wednesday morning Bible study is wrapping up at Saints of God Church in Flint. Pastor Alfred Harris leads about two dozen people in a closing prayer.

HARRIS: In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost - everybody say it.




HARRIS: All right.

CARMODY: The prayer concluded. It's time now to roll out the water. Two church volunteers maneuver a dolly saddled with a dozen case of water down a slick ramp to the church parking lot. A line of cars is 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...

HARRIS: In the realm of Christianity, we should forgive those who ask for forgiveness. We're commanded to do that by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We regularly do that. But we also know that the changes must be made that are going to help fix this problem.

CARMODY: When asked if he has faith the governor will fix the problem, Pastor Harris would only say he has faith in God. For NPR News, I'm Steve Carmody in Flint, Mich. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting. During his two and a half decades in broadcasting, Steve has won numerous awards, including accolades from the Associated Press and Radio and Television News Directors Association. Away from the broadcast booth, Steve is an avid reader and movie fanatic. Q&A