Flint residents call for free bottled water until damaged pipes are replaced

World Today

In Flint Michigan the question is – do residents still need free bottled water. Because of high lead levels in the city’s water the state has been dispensing it since 2016.

They said those levels are down now and there is no need to continue. But as CGTN’s Dan Williams tells us residents disagree.

A line of cars forms at one of Flint’s few remaining water stations, where  the state of Michigan had been providing free bottled water to Flint residents since January 2016, following the water crisis that left the city with dangerous levels of lead in the city’s water supply.

But earlier in the month, authorities announced they would stop the service. They said lead levels have not exceeded federal limits for almost two years. That decision has sparked anger for residents arriving at this church operated distribution center.

‘They are doing this wrong, man,” said one local resident, as he picked up a supply of bottled water. “They shouldn’t do us like that. Just keep providing us that water until you fix every single last one of those pipes. Period.”

Many no longer trust state officials.

“It is the psychological damage that has taken place here,” Katrina Tillman, of First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church said. “In some cases, it far exceeds the physical damage. They just don’t trust it. How can you trust that the water is safe to drink and it is coming out brown? Or my skin is coming up with new blotches of rashes. How can I trust that?”

The water crisis stems back to 2014 when state officials began using the Flint River rather than the Detroit water system as a source for tap water. The river contained corrosive chemicals that damaged the pipes, causing them to leach lead into the tap water.

Flint is working to replace all of the affected lines by 2020. So far, more than 6,000 have been replaced, but some 12,000 remain. In a statement, Michigan governor, Rick Snyder said the “scientific data” proved that the tap water is now safe to use. But at least one resident does not agree.

“You don’t know what you are doing to yourself,” said Noah Patton. “You don’t know whether you are killing your kids, poisoning the whole house. It is like a big scare tactic, and we won’t know what is going on until ten years down the line.” 

Flint is one of the poorest cities in the United States, with some 40 percent estimated to be living below the poverty line. Many cannot afford to spend the little money they have on bottled water.

Flint City Hall officials said they’ll continue to supply households with water filters but one community activist said the state needs to help out.

“I don’t think homeowners should be responsible to replace their water lines,” said community activist DeWaun Robinson. “The state should take on that burden and responsibility. Keep the pods open for the next two years. These are some small wins that you can do at a state level to make sure you have people’s backs.”

Four years on since the water crisis began, Flint residents are both worried and angry. This is a story of trust. And few here believe what the state is telling them.