Trump plans Wednesday trip to Flint, water plant

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is planning a trip to Flint on Wednesday that includes a visit to the treatment plant at the center of the city’s water crisis.

The Trump campaign has not announced any official plans for his tour of Flint, but he’s expected to use the visit to Michigan’s second largest minority-majority city as part of his ongoing effort to appeal to African-American voters. The trip was confirmed by a campaign aide.

A Flint official confirmed that Trump will tour the Flint Water Treatment Plant, where the city’s water troubles began between April 2014 and October 2015 when Flint River water wasn’t treated with corrosion-controlling chemicals. The river’s corrosive water is blamed for causing lead to leach into the city’s drinking water supply.

“They requested a tour, and we’re working to fulfill that,” said Kristin Moore, spokeswoman for Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, who has publicly backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, predicted Trump’s visit would be a publicity stunt devoid of any “serious” proposals for reversing decades of urban decay in the once booming automobile town.

“The people of Flint, we need a lot more than photo ops,” Ananich said in a conference call organized by the Clinton campaign. “We need resources to come to our community to replace the pipelines.”

Clinton made Flint’s water crisis the focal point of her campaign during the winter primaries, sending aides to the city and visiting a church on the north side for a speech that would later be used in television ads.

Ananich said “the difference” between Clinton’s use of a Flint church for a campaign ad and Trump’s visit Wednesday with his traveling national press corps is Clinton “made sure resources came in.”

The Clinton campaign was instrumental in lining up a $500,000 gift from Chicago venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker to fund a youth summer jobs program called Flint WaterWorks, said Kathi Horton, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

“From our stand point, we feel like it’s been a great success,” Horton said in an interview last week. “The Clinton campaign continues to be interested and checks in on its progress and I think will work with us to secure some ongoing funding.”

Chelsea Clinton announced the Flint WaterWorks program with Weaver two days before the March 8 Democratic primary, which Hillary Clinton narrowly lost to Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Flint youth ages 16 to 21 were put to work this summer distributing bottled water to residents.

“That’s the kind of solutions we need,” Ananich said of the WaterWorks program. “We need serious people looking for serious solutions.”

Trump's water plant tour

It’s unclear what Trump will see during the afternoon tour of the water treatment plant.

Flint’s water treatment plant has been largely dormant since October 2015, when Flint switched back to Detroit’s Lake Huron water system after the discovery of high levels of toxic lead metals in the drinking water.

“It’s not a full functioning water plant,” Moore said.

The Trump campaign requested a tour of the facility late Monday, she said.

Weaver is scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., Wednesday for a press conference about federal aid for Flint.

Flint’s water treatment plant has been frequently toured by journalists and politicians since Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency over the lead-tainted water in early January.

In March, Snyder toured the plant himself with Weaver, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Keith Creagh, then director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.

Trump first told The Detroit News in a Sept. 3 interview that he would visit water crisis-stricken Flint “at some point” during his campaign against Clinton, who visited Flint twice last winter and highlighted the city’s plight during the winter presidential primaries.

The New York businessman said Flint’s water contamination crisis is a “horror show” that “should have never, ever been allowed to happen.”

“This is a situation that would have never happened if I were president,” Trump told The News.

Trump disclosed his plans to visit Flint during his trip to Great Faith Ministries International, a predominately African-American church on Grand River Avenue on Detroit’s west side.

Other Flint-related events

Trump’s visit to Flint will coincide with a busy day of water crisis-related events.

Corinne Miller, who retired in April as director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service’s Bureau of Epidemiology, has a pretrial hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday for her alleged role in Flint’s water crisis.

In Washington, D.C., Michigan’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow are joining U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, Weaver and environmental activists in calling for congressional action on Flint-inspired aid contained in a Senate water resources bill. The 10 a.m. press conference is scheduled Wednesday, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Politico has reported that one prominent House Democrat, Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, says he doesn’t see the water resources bill getting resolved until after the Nov. 8 election.

Trunp’s visit also coincides with the Impact Network’s 9 p.m. Wednesday airing of Bishop Wayne T. Jackson’s Sept. 3 interview with the real estate developer at Great Faith Ministries.

The Republican candidate’s official campaign schedule shows his only public event Wednesday is a 7 p.m. rally in Canton, Ohio.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood