Stockpiles of water found abandoned inside a vacant Flint school



Thousand of bottles of unused water still wrapped in plastic were found inside an abandoned high school in Flint, and no one is taking responsibility for it.

The water — stacked six cases high — has been inside the vacant Flint Northern High School for more than a year, according to urban explorer Todd Farnum, who says he spotted the stack of bottles in the same location in 2018.

Farnum's discovery comes nearly six years after lead-tainted water began poisoning residents when the city, under the control of the state government, switched its source of water to the Flint River in April 2014.

Now, many homes still don’t have clean drinking water.

So why has this bottled water languished for more than a year?

Cases of water inside Flint Northern High School, which closed in 2014. - ANONYMOUS VIA TODD FARNUM
  • Anonymous via Todd Farnum
  • Cases of water inside Flint Northern High School, which closed in 2014.

Flint Community Schools Superintendent Derrick Lopez says the Flint Police Athletics League (PAL) was using the school for athletics, and the water does not belong to the district. The school permanently closed in 2014.

“The water that is there is property of the P.A.L.,” Lopez tells Metro Times in a written statement. “All activities at that site, including any donations, would have been coordinated by PAL for the program’s operating purposes. The Flint Community Schools District was not the recipient of the water bottles at that site.”

But it appears Flint PAL is no longer active. The group was dissolved late last year, according to Calvin McQueen, president of the executive board of Flint PAL Corp., which he says is a different group that will resurrect the former group.

“I don’t want to get blamed for something we didn’t do,” McQueen tells Metro Times. “I don’t know where the water came from or how it got there.”

This isn't the first time that bottled water was left found in an abandoned building in Flint. A resident discovered thousands of bottles of water in a vacant, dirty church in May 2019.

Farnum said it "is totally insane" that water was discarded yet again. Residents deserve better, he said.

"Those folks have been getting let down their whole lives," Farnum tells Metro Times.

In November 2018, three companies donated 76,800 bottles of water to Flint PAL and the school district, according to ABC12-TV. A photo of the water shows cases stacked six high on a blue wooden pallet — identical to the water inside the school. Lopez insists the district had nothing to do with the water.

But Lopez and McQueen agree that someone needs to retrieve the water if it’s still useable.

“The district is working with PAL to ensure the organization has a plan for use and distribution of the water,” Lopez says.

McQueen said he would help retrieve the water if the school district reaches out to him.

“Somebody needs to go in there and get that water,” McQueen tells Metro Times.

Flint Northern High School. - GOOGLEMAPS
  • GoogleMaps
  • Flint Northern High School.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.