Free Press reporter Katrease Stafford spent Thursday talking to residents of Flint to find out how they are dealing with the city's water crisis, which has left them without potable water because of lead and other contamination in the lines that resulted when the city was switched from Detroit water to water drawn from the Flint River. It's a crisis that is drawing increased national attention and has put Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in the cross hairs of the controversy.
Wiggins, 62, has lived in Flint for more than 50 years and said he's floored and disgusted with the handling of the city's water crisis. Wiggins was one of dozens who came to get a case of water, filters and lead testing kits at the fire station on Martin Luther King Blvd. in Flint Thursday.
"I quit drinking this water a long time ago," he said. "Why do we have to go through this? Everyone has to bathe in this. You can't use bottled water. It's not enough with them only giving out one at a time. My wife has lupus. I don't want her bathing in this. We don't want that stuff seeping into our skin. I mean, what type of affect does it really have on us?"
Wiggins said he's concerned for his sick wife, elderly mother and several other seniors who are unable to drive to get free water.
"What about them?" Wiggins said. "We've got a lot of elderly, home-bound people who can't get out. Who's helping them? The fact we even have to do this doesn't make sense."
Ready to pack up and leave
Maxine Perry is filled with dread and terror whenever she thinks about how long her family ingested potentially contaminated water at her Flint home.
"We're just doing the best we can, all things considering," Perry, 59, said, as she watched a National Guard member distribute water at a Flint fire station. "But I'm about ready to pack up and leave. I am so terrified. I'm terrified for my children and their children. Just absolutely terrified."
Perry, who has lived in Flint for more than 40 years, has four children and said she can't help but worry about the impact the water has had on them and others throughout the city.
Michigan State Police and National Guard members gave Flint residents bottles water, filters and lead testing kits Jan. 21. Katrease Stafford Detroit Free Press
"You want to know the truly sad part of all of this?" Perry asked. "It's really our children. We don't yet fully know how this will change them. ... I'm not going to say Flint failed us, but the government failed us. We just don't know what to do. ... It's just not right."
"Someone is finally trying to help us"
Jaquetta Avery had a feeling something might have been wrong with her water when sores began to develop around her 14-year-old daughter's mouth every time she brushed her teeth.
Jaquette Avery, 30, inspects a bottle to get her water tested that she received along with a water filter and bottled water from National Guard Specialist Drew Cross, 24, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.
"My oldest daughter, for some odd reason, she just kept getting these sores around her lips," Avery,30, recalled. "She said, 'Mama, it's only happening after I brush my teeth.' She's 14, she's a teenager, so she's old enough to know when something isn't right."
Avery was grateful Thursday when Michigan State Police and National Guard members knocked on her door to give her two cases of water, a filter and a test kit.
"I'm happy someone is finally trying to help us out," Avery said, while examining a kit she plans to use to test her water.
In late 2015, Avery switched over to just using bottled water for most of her family's daily needs, such as drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth. But Avery said it's costly to buy so much water when her family goes through two and a half cases of bottled water each day. Avery even uses bottled water to feed her dog because she's fearful it might get sick from the tap water.
"The kids, my four daughters, they were slipping up and using the tap water to brush their teeth and I told them no, go ahead and use the bottled water to brush your teeth," she said. "It's better to be safe than sorry.When we take showers, I tell them to be quick, don't prolong it."
Avery can't help but wonder why state officials were mum on the water crisis as time progressed.
"I feel like they knew this for quite some time and it wasn't right for us to be kept in the dark," Avery said. "My two youngest daughters, they're not paying attention but the two older ones, they think it's creeping them out. I personally just feel like,how and why did this happen? We need answers."
"I can't wash my kids or my grand kids"
Thousands of water bottles are being handed out of the Flint Fire Station 3 in Flint on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.
Robin Simpson is livid.
She's angry over what she believes is an inadequate response to Flint's water crisis from state officials.
And she's also mad that President Barack Obama didn't visit Flint during his trip to Michigan on Wednesday so he could personally witness residents' suffering. .
"It's sad to me that Obama came yesterday to Detroit yesterday, but he didn't show the right type of love," Simpson, 54, said. "We're 65 miles from Detroit and they could have brought him here first. even just 15 minutes, just to apologize for the suffering we're going through. Obama really hurt my feelings. Don't address us from Detroit, come here. It's sad we're going through this."
Simpson said her water "smells and is rusty."
"We got sick a lot," Simpson said, while rubbing her granddaughter's head. "It's said I can't wash the kids or my grandkids."
Simpson said several of her daughter's friends and their children believe they were sickened over the past several months from the water.
"One girl, her son just threw up a lot," Simpson said. "My daughter said, 'You have to stop drinking it, but we didn't have no free water. It's bad. I never thought this city would go through this. It used to be a beautiful place for you to buy a home."
"The Governor of the state of Michigan has been aware of the problem for two years when the first report came out indicating high levels of lead in the water. The city made a cost measure switch by switching the reservoir of drinking water. Why bring it from another municipality when we have it here? That was being done because the water they had in Flint was bad to start with. It looked bad, it smell rotten and it had a silent killer. These facts were kept secret by the Governor and a few that would not rock the boat.”*
National Guard PFC Kyle Holmes hands over a water filter to Kathryn Brown, 57, who says that she even gives her cat bottled water, in Flint on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.
Kathryn Brown stopped drinking her water about a year ago after a thick, black-colored sludge began to come out of her kitchen faucet.
Brown, scared and confused, had no clue what was going on, but her family immediately decided to stop consuming the water.
"I'll tell you, we don't even use that water for our cats," Brown, 57, said. "It's a really funky, black-ish, gray mess."
Brown said it was hard at first to get used to used so much bottled water daily, but it's become part of her life.
"The response from the National Guard has been wonderful," Brown said, standing in her door Thursday as she watched National Guard members knock on her neighbors' doors. "But beyond that, I don't know who to blame or whose to blame. It's a shame that our ex-mayor just went right along with everything that's happening now."
Drinking and bathing in "poison"
Robert Jackson wishes he heeded the multiple warnings from friends and family who implored him not drink the "poison" running through the faucet of his Flint home.
Flint resident Robert Jackson, 54, shows of some marks left on his arm that he believes are the result of drinking contaminated Flint tap water at Flint Fire Station 3 in Flint, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.
Not listening their warnings came with a painful price.
A large, painful blistery rash on his upper left arm, to be exact.
"I was steady drinking it," Jackson said, as he took off his coat to show the rash." My mother and them said, 'Don't drink it,' but I saw the mayor drinking it so I thought it was OK if he was. But then all of a sudden, last summer, I got a bunch of red bumps and it started getting bigger and bigger."
That was enough to force Jackson to quit drinking the water, but he still has remnants of the rash on his arm.
"It's nerve-wracking," Jackson said. "I've been taking a bath in this stuff, been drinking it, cooking with it. I didn't know it was that bad."
Jackson said he's worried about his dog because he's been forced to continue to give him the water because he can't afford to buy more bottled water.
"I've been giving it to my dog," he said. "But I've got a big bucket under my garage and when it fills up with the rainwater, I give him that."
He said Flint residents feel betrayed.
"I think everybody is upset,"Jackson said. “To get a surprise like this and find out you're drinking poison and washing up in it, it's wrong."
Katrease Stafford, Detroit Free Press