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Critics say it's too soon for the government to say Flint tap water is safe to drink

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Tomorrow, state and federal officials meet in Chicago to discuss the latest data on Flint’s water crisis.

Critics of the state’s handling of the Flint water crisis say they don’t want to hear the city’s tap water is safe to drink once again.

Flint’s water became contaminated with lead after the city’s water source was switched to the Flint River.   Improperly treated river water damaged city pipes. 

Recent tests by the state and independent researchers suggest Flint’s water quality has improved since being switched back to Detroit more than a year ago.   But no one has claimed yet that Flint’s water is safe to drink unfiltered. 

Michael Steinberg is with the American Civil Liberties Union.   He says more testing is needed.

“Any suggestion by the state tomorrow or at the town hall meeting (on Wednesday in Flint) that the water is in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act…is not only wrong…it’s irresponsible,” says Steinberg.

To make their case that problems persist, the ACLU and groups involved in a lawsuit against the state sent a letter this month to Michigan’s Attorney General’s office claiming more work is needed to make the water in Flint schools safer.

They claim information obtained through the lawsuit shows: 

1. Sinks in school bathrooms have not been tested, and there has been no replacement of fixtures or installation of filters in bathrooms. 2. The Flint Central Kitchen has not had filters installed as of November 18, 2016. 3. It appears that DEQ has committed to installing filters in Northwestern High School beginning November 19, 2016, but the agency has yet to publicly confirm whether the work has been undertaken or completed even though extremely high levels of these toxins were reported as recently as October 2016. 4. At Southwestern, a sample was taken on November 5, 2016 after fixtures were changed and filters installed which showed 41ppb 5. The DEQ has not tested the water supply in any school for water-borne bacteria.

A MDEQ spokesman responded to the letter, by pointing out what has been done over the past 15 months:

1. All Flint Community Schools are still on bottled water; 2. Fixtures in FCS have been replaced at all points where water is anticipated to be used for consumptive purposes; 3. We have installed fixtures and are testing filtered water; as test results are completed, the reports are posted to the website: http://www.michigan.gov/flintwater/0,6092,7-345-76292_76294_76297---,00.html 4. We continue to urge people to use their properly installed filters on their faucets.

A large crowd is expected for a town hall style meeting Wednesday evening at Flint’s Northbank Center.  The meeting is intended to advise the public about what the latest data says about Flint’s water quality.

Rev. Rigel Dawson says it’s too soon to make any definitive statements about whether Flint’s water is once again “safe” to drink.

“We can not issue a blanket statement and say everything’s fine,” says Dawson, “because too many factors change from month-to-month.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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