Donald Trump visited the shuttered water treatment plant in Flint today and then went to address the congregation of a local church to talk about the continuing water contamination crisis in the city. The Republican presidential candidate took a 20 minutes' tour alongside Flint’s utilities manager.
The plant has been idle since October 2015 when the city’s water supply was switched back to water sourced from Lake Huron through Detroit’s water system. Previously, water that was sourced in the Flint River was not properly treated with anti-corrosion materials and therefore leached toxic lead into Flint’s drinking water. Several state and federal investigations are now ongoing, along with both criminal and civil lawsuits. Sometime this year, the Flint water plant will begin treating water sourced from the Karegnondi Water Authority that is piping in water directly from Lake Huron.
Trump briefly toured the idled plant with Flint city utilities administrator JoLisa McDay. The New York businessman stood on a bridge inside the water treatment plant, which has not operated since October 2015 when the city switched back to Detroit’s water system following the discovery of high levels of toxic lead in the water.
Trump told the press at the plant, “I just want to thank the folks from Flint and the really good executives … you’re going to get it, I have no doubt.”
The New Yorker then went to Bethel United Methodist Church to talk about the lead contamination that was first identified in late September 2015. The Rev. Faith Green Timmons welcomed him inasmuch as her church welcomes “all people,” even while receiving him “in no way represents an endorsement of his candidacy.” Rev. Timmons described her church as “a final example of a faithful, intelligent, historically African-American congregation at work” on the water crisis.
On September 3, while addressing a black church in Detroit, Trump vowed to visit Flint. The lead contamination crisis, he said, is “horror show that ... should have never, ever been allowed to happen.”
Trump also openly wondered this month whether the switch from sourcing water from Detroit to the Flint River from April 2014 to October 2015 was the result of companies’ profiteering while the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline to Lake Huron was being built. “And probably they wanted it to happen because companies were going to make a lot of money from the switch,” Trump told the Detroit News. “That’s probably what happened, who knows?”
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said at a news conference Trump did not grant her the “courtesy and respect” of a phone call before announcing his visit to Flint. Weaver said Trump had “not much to say” about Flint in the past. “Unexpected visits like this are difficult for us. If they are able to arrange it, then they can arrange it,” Weaver told reporters at the Capitol Building today. Looking on were fellow Democrats, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, as well as U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (MI-D), who were calling for more federal money for Flint.
Before Trump arrived, local activists held a small protest and press conference. Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, said that labor and liberals are denouncing Trump. “Here we stand, less than 60 days out from a presidential election, and now Donald Trump decides to roll into town for a photo opp? Give me a break,” Bieber said. Behind him were fellow protesters who held up a wall of plastic bottles outside the inactive water treatment plant. “Mr. Trump, I’ve got one question for you and it’s a pretty simple one: Where the hell have you been?”
Hillary Clinton visited Flint twice during the primaries, and used video taken there in several political ads.