Michigan governor: Flint tap water safe to drink again

Photo: CNN
By  | 

FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) -- Flint, Michigan's supply of bottled water from the state will be running dry soon.

Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement Friday saying tap water in Flint is safe to drink again, so bottled water is no longer necessary.

Crews will distribute the remaining supply of bottled water. Once that runs out, the PODS sites where the water is passed out will all close.

It was not clear how much water remained or exactly when the supply of bottled water will be exhausted.

Snyder based his decision on two years of water testing conducted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which shows an overwhelming amount of samples below federal guidelines for lead and copper quantities.

"I have said all along that ensuring the quality of the water in Flint and helping the people and the city move forward were a top priority for me and my team," Snyder said in a statement. "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."

He said the decision to declare Flint's water safe and end the bottled water distribution was based solely on science.

"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," Snyder said.

The state began providing free bottled water to Flint residents in January 2016 after Snyder declared a state of emergency. Initially, water was distributed from nine PODS sites -- one in each city council ward.

The number of PODS sites remaining open was pared to four -- one in each quadrant of the city -- in late August and early September. Community groups also were delivering water to people unable to travel to a PODS site.

As of last fall, PODS locations were still distributing 65,000 cases of water per week.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver did not immediately comment on Snyder's action. However, on Thursday she issued a statement calling for the state-funded supply of bottled water to continue until every lead and galvanized water service line in the city has been replaced.

State Sen. Jim Ananich, a Democrat from Flint, was aghast at Snyder's decision.

"It's beyond belief that the governor expects the folks in Flint to trust the government now, when they lied to our faces about lead in our water just a few years ago," Ananich said. "That trust was broken, and families in Flint still don't feel that the water in their homes is safe to drink."

He echoed Weaver's calls for bottled water supplies to continue until all lead water service lines in the city are replaced.

"We won't feel safe drinking our water until every bad pipe is replaced, and the administration that caused this disaster needs to make sure bottled water stays available until that happens," Ananich said.

Bottled water will continue to be distributed in Flint Community Schools buildings at least through the end of the current school year. The schools have a separate agreement with several leading beverage companies and retailers to supply water.

Snyder pointed out Flint has received $450 million in relief funds -- $350 million from the state and $100 million from the federal government -- to recover from the water crisis.

That funding is earmarked for water quality improvements, pipe replacement, healthcare, nutritional food distribution, educational resources, job training and creation and more.

"Bottled water may be ending but the state's commitment to the residents of Flint remains strong," said Rich Baird, senior advisor to Gov. Snyder and team leader for the state's Mission Flint Office.

Snyder's statement says 94 percent of water samples taken between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, tested below the federal guideline of 15 parts per billion or less of lead and copper. The 90th percentile of those samples as 6 parts per billion of lead or copper.

Some of the samples were taken from homes that still have a lead water service line. In those homes, the samples were taken from water filtered by cartridges made available to every Flint resident affected by the water crisis.

"Flint's water is undoubtedly one of the most monitored systems in the country, and for the last 22 months several types of extensive testing data points have consistently supported that Flint's water system has stabilized," said Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, who remains the principal on Flint water. "Even with the quality water results to date, we will continue to support Mayor Karen Weaver's service line replacement program as it is an important component to the long-term integrity of the Flint water system."

Weaver's office is managing the three-year project to replace 22,000 lead and galvanized water services lines in the city. As of April, about 6,200 service lines have been replaced.

Work will continue this year and likely next year.