Foreman at Flint Water Plant Warned 'People Are Gonna Die'

Matt McFarland's alarm is reported in upcoming PBS documentary
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2019 5:11 PM CDT
Foreman at Flint Water Plant Warned 'People Are Gonna Die'
The Flint Water Plant water tower in a file photo.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

The warning is about as stark as it gets: “It’s not safe. We’re not ready. People are gonna die." The words were from Matt McFarland, who worked as a foreman at the water plant in Flint, Michigan, in 2014—just before the city began using the Flint River as the source for its water. The warning, from McFarland to his sister, is included in an upcoming Frontline documentary on PBS about the Flint water crisis, which is blamed for the deaths of at least a dozen adults and the sickening of thousands of children. McFarland died in 2016, but his sister, Tonja Petrella, spoke with Frontline. “I remember specifically, the day before they actually flipped the switch, he called me and he said, ‘Tonja, contact everyone that you know in Flint, anybody you care about, and tell them, do not drink the water.'"

Petrella did exactly that, and the documentary includes her texts. "Do not drink the water and do not let your loved ones drink it," she wrote. Her brother also expressed his concerns to superiors, the story notes, but to no avail. As MLive notes, McFarland wasn't the only one worried. Eight days before the switch, former utilities manager Michael Glasgow wrote in an email to state regulators that “if water is distributed from this plant in the next couple weeks, it will be against my direction.” The Frontline documentary airs on PBS stations at 9pm Tuesday. (Flint just dealt with the spillage of raw sewage into the river.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.