Freshwater Future Condemns Michigan’s Decision to End Free Bottled Water Program for Flint Residents

Posted on April 9, 2018 by

Freshwater Future is disheartened by the State of Michigan’s decision to end state-sponsored bottled water distribution, and we urge the State to reconsider.

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The city has rapidly replaced 6,200 lead service lines, but local officials say more than 12,000 could remain. As pipes are replaced, dislodged debris can cause dangerous lead-level spikes in nearby homes. Lead exposure is bio-accumulative, meaning that once the element enters the body, it’s distributed to the brain, liver, kidney, bones, and teeth where it accumulates over time. Flint residents have already been exposed to alarmingly dangerous levels. Further exposure, even at relatively low levels, could have compounding, devastating effects—especially for expectant mothers and children.

But the water crisis in Flint goes beyond toxic lead levels. It is a crisis of broken public trust in state government caused by undemocratic emergency management that prioritized cutting costs over the health and safety of Flint residents. Today, state officials face felony charges of false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office, and willful neglect of duty. These officials once told residents that tap water was safe when it was not; we empathize with those who ask why they should believe state officials today.

Once again, the State has caused panic and fear as residents wait in line for hours to secure the remaining bottled water before supplies run out. Some families have no other access to clean drinking water, as their service has been shut off. Some Flint schools continue to test at many times the federal action level for lead. And widespread distrust and confusion prevents proper use of water filters. The State has not earned the community’s trust nor have they successfully convinced the public of the water’s safety. For the sake of public health and alleviating public mistrust, bottled water distribution should continue until all lead service lines are replaced.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.