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Gov. Snyder: Flint water safe to drink, free bottled water distribution ending

(WJRT)
Published: Apr. 6, 2018 at 2:00 PM EDT
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(4/6/2018) - Flint's supply of bottled water from the state will be running dry soon.

Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement Friday saying tap water in Flint is safe to drink again, so bottled water is no longer necessary.

Crews will distribute the remaining supply of bottled water. Once that runs out, the PODS sites where the water is passed out will all close.

Mayor Karen Weaver believes the bottled water supply will run out sometime over the weekend. Dozens of vehicles were lined up to get possibly their last supply of bottled water at the four PODS sites after Friday's announcement.

Snyder based his decision on two years of water testing conducted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which shows an overwhelming amount of samples below federal guidelines for lead and copper quantities.

“I have said all along that ensuring the quality of the water in Flint and helping the people and the city move forward were a top priority for me and my team," Snyder said in a statement. "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.”

He said the decision to declare Flint's water safe and end the bottled water distribution was based solely on science.

"Since Flint’s water is now well within the standards set by the federal government, we will now focus even more of our efforts on continuing with the health, education and economic development assistance needed to help move Flint forward. I remain steadfast in that commitment,” Snyder said.

The state began providing free bottled water to Flint residents in January 2016 after Snyder declared a state of emergency. Initially, water was distributed from nine PODS sites -- one in each city council ward.

The number of PODS sites remaining open was pared to four -- one in each quadrant of the city -- in late August and early September. Community groups also were delivering water to people unable to travel to a PODS site.

As of last fall, PODS locations were still distributing 65,000 cases of water per week.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement that she was not notified of Snyder's decision until about an hour before it was announced.

She planned to call Snyder on Friday to "express the insensitivity of the decision he made today" and reiterate her request that bottled water continue until all lead service lines in the city are replaced.

“I know this is not the situation any of us want to be in," Weaver 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.”

Despite no bottled water being distributed, the state will continue paying for water filters and cartridges indefinitely.

In addition, bottled water will continue to be distributed in Flint Community Schools buildings at least through the end of the current school year. The schools have a separate agreement with several leading beverage companies and retailers to supply water.

Snyder pointed out Flint has received $450 million in relief funds -- $350 million from the state and $100 million from the federal government -- to recover from the water crisis.

That funding is earmarked for water quality improvements, pipe replacement, healthcare, nutritional food distribution, educational resources, job training and creation and more.

“Bottled water may be ending but the state’s commitment to the residents of Flint remains strong,” said Rich Baird, senior advisor to Gov. Snyder and team leader for the state’s Mission Flint Office.

Snyder's statement says 94 percent of water samples taken between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, tested below the federal guideline of 15 parts per billion or less of lead and copper. The 90th percentile of those samples as 6 parts per billion of lead or copper.

Some of the samples were taken from homes that still have a lead water service line. In those homes, the samples were taken from water filtered by cartridges made available to every Flint resident affected by the water crisis.

“Flint’s water is undoubtedly one of the most monitored systems in the country, and for the last 22 months several types of extensive testing data points have consistently supported that Flint’s water system has stabilized,” said Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, who remains the principal on Flint water. "Even with the quality water results to date, we will continue to support Mayor Karen Weaver’s service line replacement program as it is an important component to the long-term integrity of the Flint water system.”

Weaver's office is managing the three-year project to replace 22,000 lead and galvanized water services lines in the city. As of April, about 6,200 service lines have been replaced.

Work will continue this year and likely next year.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver's full letter to Gov. Rick Snyder requesting bottled water supplies continue until lead service lines are replaced:

 

Dear Governor Snyder:


Over the past few weeks, residents of Flint have been expressing their great anxiety over the potential end to the supply of bottled water and ftinding needed to continue the operation of water distribution sites, known as PODS, and Access and Functional Needs (AFN) home delivery services in the City of Flint. While I know their concerns are legitimate, I have been telling them that I cannot give them a definitive answer. This is because I don’t have an answer.


As I have stated before and will continue to say, this is not what I want for our city and I stand by my position that free bottled water should be provided to the people of Flint until the last known lead-tainted pipe has been replaced. I am aware that Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is reporting that their recent water quality tests conducted at sites around Flint is showing that the water is safe for individuals, including school children and those immunocompromised, to drink from the tap. Thus, you may conclude that bottled water no longer needs to be provided but I believe more discussion is needed on the test results. Moreover, I hope that the state can provide the
public a clear and detailed explanation of the test results and sampling methodology used.


We know that the water in Flint is much better than when I made the Emergency Declaration in December 2015, and that is a good thing. However, we also know that trust has to be restored before residents are ready to rely only on filtered water.


I recognize and express my appreciation to you and the state for continuing to provide water filters and cartridges that are made available to the public free of charge. I will also continue to make sure that residents know that they can request water filters and detailed instructions on how to properly install and maintain filters, until December 2018, through the state-funded Community Outreach and Resident Education (CORE).


However, while I appreciate the assistance the state has provided, adequate resources should continue being provided until the problem is fixed and all the lead and galvanized pipes have been replaced. The people of Flint are a proud, strong, and resilient people only calling for what any other community would expect in such a situation as ours.

Sincerely,

Dr. Karen W. Weaver, Mayor

City of Flint

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