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Four years later, Flint's water crisis lingers


Today marks the fourth anniversary of Flint’s ill-fated switch to the Flint River as the city’s drinking water source.

It was four years ago that then-Flint Mayor Dayne Walling pushed the button switching the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River.

The cascade of mistakes and missteps that followed led toelevated lead levels in Flint’s tap water, public fear, mistrust in government and hundreds of millions of federal and state dollars to fix Flint’s broken water system.

Flint’s drinking water source was switched back to Detroit two and a half years ago, after dangerous levels of lead were discovered. 

Recent tests show levels of lead in the city’s tap water are now well within state and federal quality standards.

Citing those test results,the Snyder administration decided to end free bottled water distribution in Flint this month, though it continues to hand out water filters to screen for lead.

While the immediate crisis may have passed, the aging infrastructure that leached lead into people’s drinking water remains a problem.

To date,more than 6,200 lead and galvanized service lines have been replaced, with twice that number that still need to be removed.  It will take at least two more years for crews to finish replacing all the aging pipes connecting Flint homes and businesses to city water mains.  

Fifteen current and former government officials have been criminally charged in connection with the Flint water crisis. The charges range from neglect of duty to involuntary manslaughter. Four defendants have cut plea deals with prosecutors in exchange for their cooperation. Preliminary hearings for the remaining defendants have been going on for months. Eventually, it will be up to several local judges to decide if there is enough evidence for any of the cases to go to trial.   

Despite assurances, many Flint residents still don’t trust their tap water or the state officials claiming the water is safe to drink.

Rallies are planned today in Lansing and Flint to call on the state torestart the bottled water distribution program.

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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