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Free bottled water goes fast in Flint

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Cars started lining up at dawn today at a Flint business giving away free water.

Concerns about the safety of Flint’s tap waterhas created high demand for bottled water. 

But many Flint residents say they have trouble paying for what little bottled water is still sitting on store shelves. 

Mike Sargent is with Flint Strong.  The group tries to promote the city with positive acts. 

That’s why Sargent found himself standing outside his downtown Flint title company office at 9 am in single digit cold, loading dozens of cases of bottled water into people’s cars and trucks. 

It only took about 30 minutes to hand out about two hundred cases of bottled water. 

“I knew that our intention would only be a band aid on all that needed help,” says Sergeant, “But it’s better to help those who we could help than none at all.”

Since switching off the pipeline from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department last Spring, Flint has been getting its tap water from the Flint River. 

Residents have complained about the smell, particulates and discolored water during the past nine months.  The city has also had to issue several boil water advisories and was cited for violating the Safe Drinking Water Act for higher than acceptable levels of a disinfectant by-product. 

Flint officials insist the city’s water is safe to drink. But many city residents don’t believe them.

“My son’s four,” says Rebecca Cordell, who was among those in line this morning, “He can’t drink the water.  It gave him an infection.”

Other people in line, like Surretta Trentway, are grateful for the help.

“It’s nice they’re doing it. I appreciate it, thank you,” Trentway said as she waved at the volunteers. 

Flint Strong and local realtors hope to distribute more bottled water to Flint residents who fear they can’t drink the city’s tap water. 

Meanwhile, city officials hope to hire a consultant soon to evaluate the water system.  

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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