Donations for bottled water are down significantly in Flint

Published: Jun. 29, 2016 at 6:40 PM EDT
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(06/29/16) - More than six months into Flint's water emergency, donations for bottled water are down all over the city.

ABC12 has learned the state has been supplying the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan with about 40,000 cases of bottled water a week, for months.

"Well it certainly is like night and day,” said Bill Kerr, president of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

Kerr says at the peak of the crisis in January, people from around the country were sending money and truckloads of bottles.

Kerr says at the time, they were able to fill up to 50 semis a week with bottled water, delivering it out to churches, community centers and other sites. Now, he says donations have drastically gone down, averaging seven semis a week going out.

Kerr says this happens all over the country as time passes following a disaster - people not directly affected start to forget.

"You know, we're not at the peak of the media's attention right now and you know, quite honestly, the water in the state it is, where the water is drinkable in Flint now as long as you use filters, there is less need in some peoples' eyes for bottled water. We will continue to supply water to the community as long as it's needed,” Kerr said.

Bishop Roger Lee Jones, the head of Greater Holy Temple Church of Christ in God, called a press conference Wednesday to address the issue of donations going down.

He says especially in the last couple weeks, bottled water donations at the church have decreased.

The church has been running a distribution site six days a week since January, and now has to limit how much water it gives people.

"At one time, we thought we had enough water to service the world,” Jones said.

Jones says back in January, people from around the country were sending money and delivering bottled water; the church was able to give people as much as they needed. Now, they're limiting it to four cases.

"There's a great need for donations,” Jones said.

Jones started Greater Holy Temple 52 years ago and has seen a lot happen in the city, but he says the water crisis is the worst.

"I've never seen this kind of despair, I've never seen this kind of hurt,” he said.

People coming by to pick up water Wednesday said they're grateful for Greater Holy Temple giving away bottled water. There is a community water site run by the state in the third ward, the same as the church, but despite some scientists and officials saying filtered water is safe in Flint, a lot of people still rely on bottled water exclusively.

"Just don't trust it, you know, I've always drank bottled water no matter what,” said Derek Bartlet, who lives in Flint.

"The water's not good now. They're saying it’s OK to drink, but it's not. No, I don't trust them. They lied before and they'd lie again,” said Steve Bryant, who lives in Flint.

Jones is also calling for more prayer - encouraging all of Flint's faith-based organizations to come together in the face of the water crisis.