- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Fresh bottled water placed in a state building in Flint beginning in January 2015 was for employees and visitors, as concerns about the city’s water quality were rising but before lead was discovered in it, a spokesman for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Friday.

Spokesman Dave Murray said he didn’t know if workers promoted that it was available, but no signs prohibited the public from drinking water from the coolers. One water cooler was placed on each floor and next to public drinking fountains in the building that includes the Department of Health and Human Services, he said.

Murray also says the water was provided until the summer, and then returned in October after a public health emergency was declared. Another state spokesman had said earlier it was provided continuously in the building.

Progress Michigan, a liberal group critical of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, released state emails Thursday describing how water was being provided to the building.

“I had no knowledge of that taking place,” Snyder said Friday.

The water coolers were introduced after Flint officials warned residents about elevated levels of a disinfection byproduct called trihalomethane in the city’s water. Flint notified water customers at the time that it was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act because of those levels and cautioned the elderly, infants and people with compromised immune systems.

The notices, however, described Flint’s water as safe to drink.

Flint residents are now warned to drink only filtered or bottled water because of lead contamination. The water supply became contaminated when the city, under emergency state management, switched from the Detroit municipal water system and began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money.

Snyder has accepted responsibility for the emergency while also blaming state and federal environmental regulators, some of whom have resigned or have been suspended.

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