FLINT (WJRT) - (01/11/17) - The latest testing data, health concerns and where Flint's water system stands - those are just some of the questions experts answered Wednesday at the Flint Water Town Hall.
Panelists from the city, state and federal level were all in the same room to unveil new information to about 300 Flint residents and activists in attendance at the Northbank Center at the University of Michigan-Flint.
Panelists said overall water quality is improving but, at this point, they're still recommending filtered water only.
Water sampling done by the state in partnership with several Michigan universities, shows 96 percent of the homes tested are meeting federal guidelines for lead.
These results are echoed by the Environmental Protection Agency represented at the town hall by Miguel Del Toro.
"What we found generally is that we were in agreement about the significant improvement in lead levels," said Del Toro.
Del Toro is the scientist who was ignored by his superiors when he found incredibly high lead levels in a Flint families home back in April 2015.
He and others on the panel said challenges are ahead including trying to shrink a water system that is simply too big for the city. Another pressing issues, how long it will take to removing the thousands of lead service lines.
For the first time Wednesday night, we learned it could be three years before they're all replaced.
"I think if we do 6,000 lines per year for the next three years we will have addressed this problem in whole," said Brigadier General Michael McDaniel.
McDaniel was appointed one year ago to lead the pipe replacement efforts.
As the pipes continue to get pulled, it can create an unsettled water system which means residents must only drink filtered water.
We're told because this is an unprecedented situation, there was no hard date given for when people can drink from the tap freely again.
This news causing anger and frustration for some people who were outspoken during the forum.
"This is nothing but another year of the same old same old, it's a smooth over job to make us feel like the water is better," resident Tony Palladino, Jr. said. Abel Delgado added, "It's the same thing you've heard from the beginning. The reality is the same people that are up there are the ones that said the water was safe in the first place before it came out that it wasn't. So reality is we cannot trust them and we will not trust them."
Throughout the presentation you could hear water bottles loudly crinkling.
Water activist Melissa Mays tells ABC12 News it was somewhat planned. She says they decided on that action because it was a different way to have their voices heard, instead of yelling and being thrown out.
But, two hours into the town hall as the Q&A portion began, one resident did get up and start yelling.
He said he's mad nothing has been done to help his family. He explained his kids are very sick and his teeth have been falling out because of the lead.
The police were on standby, but a community member did step in and help him calm down.
It's that camaraderie that really stuck with Mays tonight.
She told ABC12 News, "You know what I took away from tonight? How educated the residents were. I did see a stack of questions in there and people saying 'no, no, no.' Every time you heard a water bottle crumple, it's because it was something the residents did not believe - that I am impressed with. I am impressed with the hard, the hard working, informed, educated residents that just aren't going to take it any more."
Mays says moving forward she wants the residents to be able to stand up and ask their questions at town halls. That way, she says they can make sure the panelists are actually answered their questions.
She and other people we spoke with tonight assured us, they will remain loud - after all they were the ones who initially sounded the alarm of the emergency.
To hear the question and answer part of the forum, click on the video links in the video player with this story.