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Flint's water woes becoming a 'perception' problem too

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Tomorrow morning, Catholic Charities and UAW workers plan to distribute two thousand gallons of free water to Flint residents.

It’s just the latest water giveaway in Flint. 

Last week, dozens of people lined up for cases of bottled water being given away by local businesses. 

Photos of people standing in line waiting for water have been seen around the state and the country.

It conjures memories of natural disasters. 

But Flint officials insist, the city’s water is safe to drink.  

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
There have been regular protests about the city's water outside Flint city hall

Since switching from Detroit water to the Flint River for its tap water, and changing how the water is treated, Flint residents have complained about the water’s taste, smell and appearance.  The city has issued several boil water advisories.  The city has also been cited for violating the Safe Drinking Water Act for higher than acceptable levels of a disinfectant by-product. 

City officials insist, despite the problems, tests show the water is safe to drink.

Flint’s emergency manager says the city’s water problems are becoming a ‘perception’ issue as well.

“Not just in the Flint area, but throughout the state and even beyond that,” says Jerry Ambrose, “I mean it’s clearly a reputational issue.”

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Flint Emergency Manager Jerry Ambrose (right) and Public Works Director Howard Croft discuss plans for hiring consultant.

Ambrose says there’s no “easy fix” to Flint’s water problems.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling discussed the city’s water problems with Governor Rick Snyder last week. 

Afterwards he posted on Facebook

“I'm encouraged that we will find a way to work with the state to find real, long-term solutions to our water and infrastructure issues.”

The city’s long-term plan has been to eventually hook up with a new pipeline.  The KWA pipeline will bring water from Lake Huron to Flint. But the KWA won't be ready until sometime in mid-2016.

In the short-term, city officials want to hire a consultant with experience dealing with water systems that use river water. Only one company applied by last week’s deadline.   

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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