BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Melissa Mays, a resident of Flint, Michigan, came armed to discuss the city’s tainted water crisis and a new Lifetime TV movie dramatizing it.
Mays, speaking to a TV critics’ meeting Friday, pointed to several bottles she had filled with her tap water and challenged the room to taste or even smell it. There were no immediate takers.
The activist, who said the battle over water safety continues, is among the residents portrayed in Lifetime’s movie titled “Flint,” debuting Oct. 28. Mays is played by Marin Ireland, who co-stars with Betsy Brandt, Jill Scott and Queen Latifah.
Executive producer Neil Meron said the film is intended to spotlight what happened in Flint, including how a united community and “the voice of the people” can force officials to act.
Mays said there have been successes, including the outcome of a lawsuit to get half of the service lines replaced, although not the main lines or interior plumbing.
“So one of the things we hope come out of this is to let people know it’s still not over. It’s not even close to over,” she said. The movie is intended to honor Flint victims by telling the story “that even in a poor, broken, poisoned town, we banded together, and we fought. We fought, and we win.”
In 2014, a switch of Flint’s water source and failure to add corrosion-reducing phosphates allowed lead from old pipes to leach into the water. Elevated levels of lead, a neurotoxin, were detected in children, and 12 people died in a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that experts suspect was linked to the improperly treated water.
An ongoing investigation has led to charges against 13 current or former government officials, including two managers who Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed to run the city.
Last January, state officials said Flint’s water system no longer has lead levels exceeding the federal limit. The announcement was promptly met by skepticism from some residents, Mays among them, maintaining the system still contains lead and continues to cause illness.
Brandt, the former “Breaking Bad” star who’s a native of Bay City, Michigan, not far from Flint, said the person she portrays, LeeAnne Walters, was among those driven to act when authorities failed to heed complaints about their children becoming ill.
“As a mom, it just shakes you, because there’s some things that we just should be able to count on,” Brandt said.