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Flint resident: State’s decision to stop bottled water leaves the most vulnerable in the lurch

Bottled Water
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio
The state is cutting its bottled water distribution program.

The state of Michigan has decided there’s no further need to distribute bottled water to people in Flint. That free bottled water program began after tests revealed extremely high levels of lead in the city’s drinking water.

But the state says lead levels in Flint haven’t exceeded government action levels for over two years, so it’s ending the water distribution program.

Flint resident Keri Webber, who has been distributing water to those in need since 2015, joined Stateside Monday.

Listen to the full conversation above, or read highlights below.

Webber said she wasn’t surprised to hear the state was ending its water distribution program because she knew the grant was up on March 31. But it still upsets her.

“If you look at the city of Flint, 6,200 lines only have been replaced,” she said -- referring to the number of lead service lines connecting homes to water mains. “That’s barely a third, in fact that’s not even a third, of what they’re out there to replace.”

Webber explained the EPA warned Flint residents that work on lead lines would lead to spikes in lead particulate in water, not only on the house receiving work but also ones down the street too.

Although the state is still giving out free filters and replacement cartridges, she says it does nothing to restore the trust of Flint residents.  

“These are the same people that lied to us,” Webber said. “These are the same people that called us crazy. These are the same people that said the people in Flint don’t have to worry about lead. They can relax. There has been no trust restored at all. This is not restoring that trust either.”

Webber’s husband and daughter have experienced lead poisoning, and she says they’ve lost three dogs to lead-tainted water as well.

“There’s no way we’re using this tap water, ever.”

While she believes the filters work, Webber still won’t trust them.

She also said the state’s decision to end water distribution in the city will affect the city’s most vulnerable: the homebound, disabled and elderly, who were dependent upon the state delivering them ten cases of water each week.

The state delivered water to 3,200 families before the city took over. When Flint assumed the responsibility, it began delivering to just 2,000 families.

That’s when Webber started distributing to more and more people who were cut from the list.

“The work has become just exponentially difficult.”

Webber will help deliver water to families in need until the resources run out, but there’s no set plan for when the state stops paying for bottled water.

“We can’t afford to buy water for us,” she said. “I can’t go out and buy it for others.”

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