Obama drinks the water in Flint

Obama drinks the water in Flint
© Getty Images

President Obama took a drink of filtered tap water from Flint, Mich., Wednesday while visiting the city to address its lead contamination.

Obama drank the water in a show of solidarity with the city of 100,000 and to demonstrate his faith in the treatment and filtering. The sip came after he met for about 90 minutes with local, state and federal officials about the water crisis, according to a pool report from the meeting.

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“Filtered water is safe and it works,” he said at the event. “Working with the state and the city, filters are now available for everyone in the city.”

Asked by a reporter where his water came from, Obama responded, “Generally I haven't been doing stunts, but here you go,” before taking a sip.

He said it might take two years or more to replace the Flint pipes in order to make the water safe.

“It might take a year. It might take two years. It might take more,” Obama said, adding that in the meantime, filtered water is safe for most adults and children older than six.

But the crisis, he said, can be an opportunity for Flint, which has been in economic decline for decades.

“We have to take what has been a crisis and turn this into an opportunity to rebuild Flint even better than before,” he said.

Earlier this week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama probably wouldn’t drink city water during his brief visit. “I’m not aware of any photo ops that involve the president’s consumption of the water,” Earnest told reporters.

Independent testing from March showed that about 15 percent of the homes in Flint had unfiltered tap water with concentrations of lead above the Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold for safety

While that’s a significant decrease from last summer, before Flint started properly treating its water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no amount of lead is safe for consumption. Filters remove most of the lead, and regulators and experts agree that it is safe after filtering.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who has accepted primarily blame for Flint’s lead contamination, has been drinking filtered city water for weeks. Snyder initially declined to meet Obama on his Flint trip but reversed course.

An emergency manager overseen by Snyder switched the city’s water source in April 2014, which caused the untreated water to corrode lead pipes, among other water quality problems, and sicken residents. Snyder’s staff then downplayed concerns by residents and the EPA until late last year.

The EPA didn’t take action on the Flint problems until January, but employees had known about the issues for nearly a year by then.

The city has added chemicals to the water for months that slowly stops the pipes from leaching more lead.