President Obama drank filtered Flint water during a visit to the Michigan city today as he received a first-hand look at the crisis he has said deeply affected him as a parent.
"Generally I have not been doing stunts here," the president said as he took a small sip of water sitting in front of him. "This used a filter. You know, the water around this table, you know, was Flint water that was filtered and it just confirms what we know scientifically, which is that if you're using a filter, if you're installing it, then Flint water at this point is drinkable."
"As a short-term measure, this is the right thing to do, and frankly it's going to be a lot more convenient than people traveling long distances to try to lug back a bunch of bottled water," he added.
The president's water sip came as he met with federal officials at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan to receive a briefing on the federal response to the Flint water crisis. The president drank filtered Flint water publicly for a second time when he delivered a speech at Northwestern High School.
"This was a man-made disaster. This was avoidable. This was preventable," he said of the Flint water crisis.
The president's visit, which included a round table with local residents to discuss their concerns, came after 8-year-old Mari Copeny, also known as "Little Miss Flint," wrote to the president asking for a meeting.
"When something like this happens, a young girl shouldn't have to go to Washington to be heard. I thought her president should come to Flint to meet with her," he said. "That's why I'm here -- to tell you directly that I see you and I hear you and I want to hear directly from you about how this public health crisis has disrupted your lives, how it's made you angry, how it's made you worried."
Obama stressed that filtered water in Flint is safe for individuals over the age of 6 and urged residents to use filters for their water as directed by the Environmental Protection Agency. He noted that the EPA still recommends pregnant women and children under the age of 6 should drink bottled water out of an abundance of caution.
The president also said it may take years to replace the pipes for the city's water system.
"That may be a long-term process. It may take a year. It may take two years. It might take more to get all the pipes replaced, and in the meantime, folks, have to be able to use water," he said. "Trust that the tests have been done and the filter system works."
Obama's visit comes two weeks after two state officials and one city official were charged following an investigation of elevated lead levels in the city's drinking water.
Ahead of the president's visit, Gov. Rick Snyder urged Obama to drink the city's water to show the country it is now safe.
Obama previewed his visit last week, saying he hoped it would "shine a spotlight" not just on the city of Flint, but other communities across the country facing similar issues.
"We have underinvested in some of our basic infrastructure that we rely on for our public health," Obama said. "Hopefully it will give me a chance to speak to the nation as a whole about how we need to ensure that our air is clear, our water is clean, and that our kids are safe."
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday not to expect the president to point fingers at government officials or agencies tangled up in the controversy.
"I don't ... expect for the president to spend a lot of time talking about specific accountability," Earnest said. "Primarily because there continues to be ongoing investigations into that accountability, and the President doesn't want to be perceived as weighing in on one side or the other."
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