Michigan will stop providing free bottled water to Flint, a city still recovering from a crisis beginning in 2014 that resulted in high waters of lead in the city’s tap water, the governor announced on April 7.
The crisis began when state-appointed officials switched their tap water source from the more expensive Detroit water system to the Flint River, which was not treated properly before reaching residents.
The New York Times cites a 2016 study from the American Journal of Public Health which found doubled rates of Flint children with elevated blood levels of lead after the city’s switch to the Flint River system. This switch has also resulted in twelve fatal cases of Legionnaire’s disease.
While the city switched back to the Detroit water system in 2015, the crisis has continued.
Despite Flint city officials speaking out against the governor’s decision to discontinue the provision of free bottled water, Michigan officials claimed that the levels of lead in Flint’s water have not exceeded federal limits in the past two years.
“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,” Gov. Rick Snyder told the The New York Times.
These claims that the quality of Flint’s water is sufficient led to the state’s decision to close the remaining centers distributing cases of free water to Flint residents.
The New York Times also reports that Flint Mayor Karen Weaver echoed the concerns of Flint residents when she said, “We did not cause the man-made water disaster, therefore adequate resources should continue being provided until the problem is fixed and all the lead and galvanized pipes have been replaced.”
While the state of Michigan claims Flint’s water’s safety, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha said the decision to discontinue bottled water provisions is contrary to available science. According to HuffPost, Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s research is responsible for the exposure of Flint children’s increased blood levels of lead, which forced the state to admit its mistake.
Water is still capable of picking up lead as it flows through the thousands of lead lines remaining in Flint. The city is working to replace these lead and galvanized steel lines by 2020.
Steve Branch, the city administrator, told The New York Times that just over 6,200 pipes have been placed so far. About 12,000 could remain.
Snyder said in his statement that the city can still obtain free water filters. However, the city of Flint isn’t comforted.
Aretha Bradley rushed to the water distribution site near her home when she saw on Facebook that Michigan would soon halt their delivery of free water to Flint. “It was car after car after car after car trying to pick up water,” she told HuffPost.
62-year-old Flint resident Joyce Wilson still doesn’t trust the water that flows to her taps. She discussed the lines at the distribution centers this weekend with The New York Times, saying “It’s like all of a sudden, panic has set in.”
This panic is not going unnoticed. Churches and charities told NBC News that they are bracing for the impact. “Normally we give out whatever a family wants,” said deacon of the First Trinity Baptist Church Bill Quarles. “But now we may have to limit that until more supplies come in.”
While donations from Fort Wayne, Indiana and Baltimore, Maryland are coming, they won’t be available at the church until the weekend.