Mystery solved: Water bottles discovered in abandoned Flint building

Woman says water was deemed unsafe to drink
Posted at 5:22 AM, Mar 27, 2019
and last updated 2021-01-14 14:01:56-05

FLINT, Mich. (WXYZ) — It was a video that sparked rage online, and questions for those who understand the issues for Flint residents.

Late last week, a couple entered an abandoned building on Pierson Road in Flint only to discover hundreds of packages of bottled water left abandoned inside a school.

“This is horrible,” Jimmy Cowell, the man behind the camera said. “Good looking out Flint, Michigan.”

Cowell was disgusted. He lives in Flint and refuses to drink the water that comes from his tap. He’s hardly alone. Years removed from the beginning of the Flint water crisis, Cowell and many others don’t believe it’s safe to drink the water.

The city has undertaken a massive infrastructure project to replace old lead-lined pipes. The source of the water, and the process used, has changed. Bottled water giveaways were a regular sight for years, ensuring locals that they had fresh, clean water to drink. Those drives have been drying up, and at one point the former governor said the state would no longer provide bottled water.

Cowell was upset because when he found the water inside the old school located on the campus of St. Agnes in Flint he noted that they were spoiled — packages were damaged, he found human waste nearby the packages of water.

“It hits home a little bit,” said Cowell. “They’re saying they are out of water yet there’s — they’ve got three or four semi-trucks of water rotting.”

After Cowell’s video went viral — and news reports began to spread online, the folks who once housed the water stepped forward. According to one of the last people who worked in the building, the water was unsafe to donate after a pipe burst inside the building leaving the water sitting in more than an inch of murky water — the break is blamed on a sewer line issue.

“We had nowhere for it to go,” said Kiara Wilson, a former employee of the Regents Academy, the group that last housed the water. “You can’t sit it out, we didn’t know how to properly dispose of it. It’s a lose-lose situation. I hate that all the water went to waste, but we couldn’t sit it out.”

Wilson said the school originally called a cleaning crew in to clean up the mess, but they said the building should be condemned. They also said the water wasn’t safe.