Flint, Michigan, residents tell how water crisis has affected their lives
One man contracted Legionnaires' disease, which some have connected to the water issues
A mom is furious state officials, saying that they took away her right to protect her children
Patty Warner wakes up every morning without tap water.
She doesn’t brush her teeth with it. She doesn’t give it to her pets.
Her ice maker is turned off, and she only uses filtered or bottled water for coffee.
“It’s like a new normal,” the retiree and widow told CNN. “We wake up … we can’t just drink from the water.”
Warner is just one of the thousands of Flint, Michigan, residents affected by the city’s tainted water supply.
Some got sick.
Parents watched their kids’ health deteriorate.
They’re scared, angry and distrustful, and share one thing in common: They’ll never look at a glass of water the same way again.
Here are some of their stories.
Terraca Rogers, who says she has lost faith in the city, now trusts only bottled water to meet the drinking needs of her three children.
Rogers, 31, said “fishy and brown and just horrible” water came from the tap at their public housing community. Her children developed rashes and one, an 11-year-old boy, occasionally loses feeling in his hands, she said.
The mother, who has scheduled doctor appointments for Friday, said she worries the family has been drinking tainted water for more than a year and a half after they were assured the water was OK.
Rogers cooks with bottled water and allows the children to wash their faces and brush their teeth with distilled water. She only uses tap water – which is no longer brown and smelly – to clean dirty dishes and even then uses a water filter installed across all Flint Housing Commission properties.
Rogers worries her children’s conditions could worsen. “It’s going to lead to something that I’m not really going to know what to do, or how to handle it … it could lead to anything.”
Tim Monahan thought he was suffering from heatstroke.
He was coughing up black phlegm, shivering and his temperature climbed to 104 degrees.
He checked himself into the hospital on July 4, 2014.
After about three days, Monahan was tested for Legionnaires’ disease, at the suggestion of a resident who was thinking outside the box
“The next day, they said, ‘This is crazy, but you have Legionnaires’ disease,’” he told CNN.
Monahan’s case came almost a year before Michigan health officials documented 42 cases of Legionnaires’ between May and October 2015 in Genesee County, home to Flint. Health officials have not linked Flint’s lead-water crisis with the outbreak of Legionnaires, though recently filed class-action lawsuits connect the two events.
Monahan spent a week in the hospital and another three months recovering.
Helena Jones, who goes by Vicky, is a homebound senior.
Jones told CNN affiliate WJRT that despite the fact the city has set up door-to-door water delivery for Flint residents, she hasn’t gotten one yet.
And, she says, the city’s elderly residents aren’t getting enough help to cope with the water crisis.
“We’ve worked hard all our life, and we’ve paid our dues and pay our taxes. And this is what we get,” Jones said.
Melissa Mays told CNN she has suffered seizures, diverticulosis and auto-immune disorders – but she is more concerned about her sons who have been anemic and have experienced bone pain and breakage.
“They have such a compromised immune system. They want to play basketball, and I’m afraid to let them because of how weak their bones are,” she said. “I’m watching them slip in school … where they had excelled. They’re struggling in areas that they’ve never had problems with, and it’s infuriating because there’s nothing to do to help them.”
Residents want to leave the city, but many can’t because they can’t sell a property whose pipes are inundated with lead, Mays said. Some folks, she said, are willing to abandon their homes and go into bankruptcy “just to get out to get safe water.”
Among all the reasons that make her angry, one stands out, she said: In denying there was a problem for so long – rather than warning residents to be vigilant – state officials took away one of her innate rights.
“That’s criminal. I’m sorry. There’s no other word for it, the fact that they took away my right as a mother to protect my children because they chose to cover up and lie instead of fixing the problem or at least addressing it,” she said. “They chose to hide it from us and then we ended up poisoning our children. And there’s nothing they can say or do that will take that away and fix it.”
Paul Herring, an independent TV producer from Flint, still hasn’t tested his water, he told CNN.
Every time he goes to get a testing kit, there are none.
He has also noticed that a restaurant he goes to stopped serving water when he sat down.
“That kind of concerned me, because I know you’re cooking with it,” Herring said, though he added that the restaurant started serving water again after putting in some sort of system.
He says that his two college-age children worry about him. But since his house burned down in 2009, he has replaced all his pipes with lead-free ones and filtered all his water.
CNN’s Joseph Netto reported and wrote from Flint, and Joshua Berlinger reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.