Blog  /  May 2018  /  Things You Should Know About Flint, Michigan

Blog Post Teaser

In April of this year, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan announced that the state plans to discontinue providing free bottled water to the City of Flint once the current state-funded supply of bottled water has depleted. The governor feels it is now safe to end this free water distribution since lead levels in public drinking water have not exceeded federal limits for nearly two years. The federal limit for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion (ppb). Over a six-month period, monthly blood testing results show 90% of high-risk samples are at 4 ppb, making the water safe to drink by these standards. The decision to end supplying free bottled water has not been met with good reception, as many residents still distrust drinking, cooking or showering with the city’s water.

Weeks prior to the announcement, a surface water treatment engineer detailed unresolved issues to Mayor Karen Weaver of Flint. The letter stated the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has little confidence in Flint’s capacity to manage the system, including its lack of rate structure to allow proper operation and maintenance, and its inability to recruit and hire critical system staff. Spokeswoman Tiffany Brown, from DEQ, says Flint’s water system “is currently producing very high quality drinking water and distributing it around the city… The department’s concern is the ability of the city to maintain that.”

New data from the MDEQ shows nearly nine percent of water samples taken from Flint Northwestern High School in February tested higher than the federal threshold for lead, with a high of 57 ppb at another school. Though Flint schools have been providing bottled water to students since 2015, no safe blood lead level in children has been identified.


How is Michigan addressing the ongoing issue?

In 2017, the State of Michigan settled a lawsuit agreeing to spend $87 million to replace miles of corroded water lines leading to 18,000 Flint homes by January 2020, with over 6,200 replaced thus far. The state will continue to provide homes with free water filters, cartridges and water testing kits  until all the lines are replaced.

Meanwhile, on April 2nd,  the MDEQ approved a widely protested plan that allows Nestlé Waters North America to increase its groundwater withdrawal rate from a well in Osceola County from 250 to 400 gallons-per-minute, which the company would bottle and sell. Before increasing the flow rate, Nestlé must first submit a monitoring plan to the MDEQ for approval.


Where do we go from here?

Since 2014, Flint has been dealing with lead-poisoned water and continues working closely with scientists to monitor that all residents, families, and students are not in danger of lead contamination in water. As stated above, there is substantial infrastructural work that still needs to be addressed, and it will take continuous time and effort to ensure the city’s drinking water is 100% lead-free.