Michigan won’t give Flint free bottled water, even though lead pipes are still in use

This is tragic.

Protestors hold a press conference to protest Donald Trump's visit to Flint today at the Flint Water Treatment Plant September 14, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. (CREIDT: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Protestors hold a press conference to protest Donald Trump's visit to Flint today at the Flint Water Treatment Plant September 14, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. (CREIDT: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Michigan won’t be giving the city of Flint free bottled water anymore, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) announced, claiming that water quality is now “well within the standards.”

The governor’s office said that the city’s water has been below the federal lead levels for nearly two years, and thus the remaining four water distribution sites in the city will only remain open until their current supply runs out.

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“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,” Snyder said in a statement Friday.

“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.”

But many other city officials and public health experts think it’s too soon to end the program.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver (D) said she found out the program was ending only shortly before the announcement was made.

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

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Weaver’s office predicted that the current supply of water would be finished by the end of the weekend. The New York Times reported that residents rushed to stock up on free water at distribution centers after Friday’s announcement.

“This weekend the lines are so long, it’s unreal,” Joyce Wilson, 62, told the Times, adding that she doesn’t use tap water for drinking, bathing, or growing food in her garden. “It’s like all of a sudden panic has set in.”

Ariana Hawk — another Flint resident whose son became one of the faces of the water crisis in 2016 — told CNN affiliate WJRT that she began relying on the bottled water after her kids developed rashes all over their bodies.

“It was just pure anger,” she said, of her reaction to Friday’s announcement. “I don’t trust the filter, I don’t trust the water. Everything that me and my kids do from cooking to boiling their water for a bath, we’re using bottled water. I do not trust anything.”

“How do you trust a government after they let this happen?” asked a Flint man who got to one of the distribution centers on Friday after it already ran out of water.

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Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha — a pediatrician who documented kids’ rising blood lead levels and helped first expose the water crisis two years ago — also criticized the move.

“This is wrong,” she tweeted on Friday. “Until all lead pipes are replaced, state should make available bottled water and filters to Flint residents.”

In 2014, state-appointed officials switched the city’s main water source from Lake Huron to Flint River the city’s main water source, and the water wasn’t properly treated with corrosion control chemicals in order to cut costs. At least a dozen lawsuits were filed against the the city of Flint, the state of Michigan, and several local and state officials involved in the decision.

Since then, all of Flint’s affected pipes have not been replaced. Steve Branch, the acting city administrator, told the Times that about 6,200 lead or galvanized steel waterlines have been replaced so far, but an estimated 12,000 could still be in the city. Water going through those pipes might still pick up lead and could be dangerous for consumption.