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Flint marks 3rd anniversary of water switch with protests

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Today, people in Flint marked the anniversary of the start of the city’s drinking water crisis.

It was three years ago, when Flint officials pushed the button switching the city’s tap water source from Detroit to the Flint River.  Improperly treated river water damaged pipes, which then leached lead into the drinking water.

Since then, Flint’s lead-tainted drinking water has drawn national attention and local protests.

Chanting "The People United Will Never Be Defeated” and rattling empty water bottles, protesters took to Flint’s streets again to mark the anniversary of the switch.

Amid calls to expand Medicaid coverage and repeal Michigan's emergency manager law, many in the crowd still worry about lead pipes in the ground.  

“We are in desperate, desperate, desperate need of replacement,” water activist Quincy Murphy told a crowd of several dozen on the lawn of Flint city hall.  

Murphy was referring to the need to replace thousands of lead and galvanized pipes connecting Flint homes and businesses to city water mains.   Those service lines are a primary source of the lead scale that contaminates Flint’s drinking water.

Last year, the city replaced more than 700 service lines.   The goal this year is 6,000.   But it will take at least three years at that rate to remove all the damaged service lines.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver agrees with much of what the protesters are saying.  Still, she is concerned some of them are not taking into account the progress that has been made.

“Sometimes where you are mentally, emotionally doesn’t fit with where the opportunities are,” Weaver said, “And so we don’t want to miss those opportunities that are coming before us.”

The city is getting tens of millions of dollars from the federal government to fix its water infrastructure.   City, state, federal and Genesee County officials have reached an agreement that will keep Flint on Detroit water, though it is not yet a done deal.  

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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