After the state of Michigan switched Flint’s water supply in April 2014, thousands of children were poisoned by lead and at least a dozen adults died from one of the largest outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in U.S. history.
It was exactly the sort of outcome that Matt McFarland, the operations supervisor at the water treatment plant, had tried to sound the alarm about, a new FRONTLINE documentary exclusively reveals.
“I remember specifically, the day before they actually flipped the switch, he called me and he said, ‘Tonja, contact everyone that you know in Flint, anybody you care about, and tell them, do not drink the water,’” Tonja Petrella, his sister, told FRONTLINE.
Petrella said that McFarland cautioned, “It’s not safe. We’re not ready,” and finally warned: “People are gonna die.”
McFarland passed away in 2016. But in an exclusive interview for the upcoming FRONTLINE investigation Flint’s Deadly Water, Petrella spoke publicly for the first time about the concerns her brother shared in the run-up to the water switch.
Posted By Steve Neavling on Tue, Sep 3, 2019 at 10:09 am
Time is running out to charge public officials for their roles in the Flint water crisis.
Two lawmakers from Flint are hoping to give prosecutors more time by extending the statute of limitations for criminal misconduct cases involving public officials.
Sen. Jim Ananich and Rep. Sheldon Neeley each introduced a bill to increase the statute of limitations from six years to 10 years.
Water bottles arrived on trucks and in crates, and residents lined up to get those rations in the late-summer heat. They asked questions about the water they have been drinking for a lifetime only to be told that it may be contaminated with lead and other chemicals, and could have lasting impacts on the health of their children.
And they learned that things may well be much worse than they have been told, even as city officials have sworn that the city’s water system is nowhere near as dangerous as the one in Flint just a half decade ago.
“I don’t drink water. My son told me, we can’t take a bath anymore because the water’s messed up,” Shaqnique Muhammed, a mother who lives with three of her five sons in Newark, said.
Muhammed said she was picking up water for the second time since officials first began distributing water bottles last month, and that she has been learning more from YouTube videos about the contaminants in her water than she has learned from city officials.
The absence of reliable information about what precautions should be taken by residents was starkly illustrated while Muhammad was talking to The Independent.
As she described boiling water for cooking, and only bathing in hot water after leaving the tap on for 10 minutes, a volunteer standing near by overheard and stepped in to tell her that those things only make the water more dangerous, or they do nothing at all.