After four years of lead contamination, the state of Michigan announced on Friday (April 6) that the health of Flint’s drinking water has been restored and the state distribution of free bottled water is ending.
According to a news release by Gov. Rick Snyder’s office, water distribution centers will close as soon as existing supplies run out, prompting residents to rush to area depots that were scheduled to close at 6 p.m.
The surprising announcement immediately drew outrage from Flint residents who say the water is still unsafe to drink. “It’s too quick,” said Flint activist Melissa Mays of the group Water You Fighting For. “They’re putting dollars and cents ahead of Flint residents, which is how we got here in the first place,” she added.
In 2014, Flint, Michigan’s drinking water became contaminated with lead as the result of a state-appointed emergency manager switching the city’s drinking water supply from Lake Huron water treated in Detroit to Flint River water treated at the Flint Water Treatment Plant.
While Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Tiffany Brown believes there is a four to seven day supply of water left available to Flint residents, Ari Adler, a spokesman for Gov. Snyder says the supply may run out quicker than expected due to Friday’s announcement.
“We would encourage people to be civil with each other, and not take water that they don’t need,” says Adler.
According to Detroit Free Press, the state says Flint’s water has tested below federal “action levels” for lead for nearly two years, and four consecutive six-month monitoring periods. Although this may be the case, in a letter to Snyder, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said that while the water has improved, trust must also be restored before free bottled water is cut off.
“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,” Weaver said in the letter.
The state has reportedly been spending about $650,000 a month on bottled water for Flint. Nonprofit groups have also been distributing free bottled water at Flint churches.
Flint switched back to Detroit water in October 2015, but some risk remained because of damage to the city’s water distribution infrastructure.