Some Flint residents refuse to drink city water despite very low lead levels

Most people have strong opinions about whether they trust or distrust the water system
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:16 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - The most recent round of testing for Flint’s city water system shows lead levels well below federal guidelines for a fifth consecutive year.

Tests show lead levels at just 3 parts per billion in sampling conducted at 71 homes, apartments and businesses that still have lead water service lines from Jan. 1 to June 30. That is well below the federal action limit of 15 parts per billion for lead.

Residents and business owners have strong opinions about the water five years after the Flint water crisis.

Some residents are completely fine with drinking city water again. They drink it and use it as if there was never a problem.

On the other end of the spectrum, many people say they will never drink or use city water again no matter what’s done, including all the lead testing, water service line replacements and water treatment. Personal Chef and Flintstone Chloe Tenae is one of them.

“I do not use the water,” she said. “Right now, I’m still very unsure of what’s going on with the water situation.”

Tenae goes to people’s homes and cooks for them. She uses purified water that she buys herself when she cooks out of the safety of her customers and her level of distrust with Flint’s water. Tenae said it will take years to rebuild her trust in the water system.

The cost for buying water to cook with adds up quickly.

“I might do a spaghetti pasta dish or half of a pan for a total of $32,” Tenae said. “I had to inflate my pasta dish probably to $35 or $36.”

Tony Vu, on the other hand, drinks and uses the water. He owns MaMang at the Flint Farmer’s Market, which specializes in Vietnamese comfort food.

“The market’s always been safe, so it’s never been a concern with me,” Vu said. “At the end of the day, I also trust the science. I trust the people.”

He said transparency from the beginning has allowed him to maintain that trust in the water system.

“They were really good, especially during the crisis, especially about getting weekly tests, showing us that everything tested fine and we weren’t part of the grid that had lead pipes,” Vu said.

As for the efforts to replace Flint’s water service lines, that important project is finally coming to a close this fall. People living in the city who haven’t signed up for the program must do so now, because the deadline is Friday.

No signups for the free program will be allowed after Friday.

At last check in June, crews had just 200 to 300 more water service lines to investigate. Contractors already have determined the composition of pipes leading to over 27,000 homes and replaced 10,000 made of lead or galvanized metal.

The remaining 17,000 did not need a new water service line because they were already made of copper, which is safe.

Victims of Flint’s water crisis are fighting for children to get a majority of the $641.2 million civil settlement. A federal judge is deciding whether that settlement can move forward.

More than 50,000 people who lived and worked in Flint during the water crisis can receive part of that fund. But last week, many pushed back against the request to give more than $200 million to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, who haven’t been paid for their work yet.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder is among nine people facing 42 criminal charges related to the water crisis after a second criminal investigation by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. He faces two counts of misdemeanor willful neglect of duty.

Snyder’s former top aide, Rich Baird, faces the most serious charge of perjury during an investigation. A judge has ruled the five people facing felony charges through indictments have no right to challenge evidence against them in Genesee County District Court.

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