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Bottled water distribution ending in Flint

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

The Snyder administration is ending state supported bottled water distribution in Flint.

The government started distributing bottled water to Flint residents after tests revealed extremely high levels of lead in the city’s drinking water.  

In the years since Flint’s water crisis began, thousands of city residents have made a trip to one of the government sponsored water distribution centers to pick up a free case or two of bottled water a regular chore.

Gov. Snyder cites tests showing lead levels in Flint drinking water well within federal and state guidelines.According to the state, tests show Flint’s water quality has tested below action levels of the federal Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) for nearly two years.  State officials say preliminary data for the first half of the current 6-month monitoring period shows that the 90th percentile of the Tier I (high-risk) samples collected are at or below 4 parts per billion (PPB), which is well below the federal action level of 15 ppb. 

According to the state, nearly two years of LCR data and thousands of other tests show that Flint’s water is testing the same as or better than similar cities across the state.

“I have said all along that ensuring the quality of the water in Flint and helping the people and the city move forward were a top priority for me and my team. We have worked diligently to restore the water quality and the scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended,” said Gov. Rick Snyder.

Distributing bottled water has been a large chunk of the more than $350 million the state has spent on the Flint water crisis.  The federal government contributed another $100 million.  The money has also been spent on pipe replacement, healthcare, nutritional food distribution, educational resources and job training.

The state will continue to provide water filters.

While state officials say the need for distributing bottled water has passed in Flint, city leaders disagree.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver sent a letter to the governor this week asking that bottled water distribution continue until the city finishes replacing thousands of lead and galvanized pipes connecting Flint homes and businesses to city water mains. The service lines were a primary source of the lead in Flint’s drinking water. It’s a process that’s expected to take a few more years to complete.

The state’s decision to end bottled water distribution is being criticized.

“It’s beyond belief that the governor expects the folks in Flint to trust the government now, when they lied to our faces about lead in our water just a few years ago,” says State Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint). “That trust was broken, and families in Flint still don’t feel that the water in their homes is safe to drink. We won’t feel safe drinking our water until every bad pipe is replaced, and the administration that caused this disaster needs to make sure bottled water stays available until that happens.”

A state spokeswoman says the water distribution sites will remain open until the last of the remaining bottled water cases are handed out. Spokeswoman Tiffany Brown says there is enough on hand for a few more days depending on demand. 

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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