Republican Governor Rick Snyder has announced his administration will end providing bottled water to Flint residents based on water quality testing, despite tens of thousands of homes still needing lead water line replacements.
“People are still using the (bottled) water to bathe, cook, (and) shower. Students at school are still relying on bottled water to drink, and this is just a slap in the face,” Nayyirah Shariff, the director of Flint Rising, told Great Lakes Beacon. “It’s telling the whole community they’re on their own.”
The decision comes just days after the state approved a permit from Nestle to substantially increase the amount of water the company pumps from one of its northern Michigan wells despite some 80,000+ comments in opposition to that permit, as well as various concerns raised by environmental groups about the impact to nearby lakes and streams.
Flint has been working to replace all the known lead service lines in the city in the wake of the water crisis. A Snyder-appointed emergency manager made the decision to perform the 2014 switch of Flint’s drinking water source from one longtime partner that treated the water to the city’s own river, which was untreated in its distribution, in an effort to save the city money.
But the state has been paying substantially more for that decision since it was exposed that extremely high levels of lead contaminated the drinking water.
In February, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver announced plans to continue the lead and galvanized pipe replacement program – known as FAST Start – and estimated about 12,000 remaining homes in Flint still needed to be tended to. The project doesn’t expect to wrap up until sometime in 2019.
“They’re not all replaced and the water is still unsafe to drink. This action is very premature,” Shariff said of Snyder’s decision.
Earlier this week, Snyder also announced the city would no longer be under state control.
Snyder based his decision to end providing bottled water on what his administration says is “nearly two years of (Lead and Copper Rule) data and thousands of other tests” that show Flint’s water is testing the same as, or better than, similar cities across the state.
But part of the problem with that assessment is that the Lead and Copper Rule itself is flawed. Dr. Marc Edwards, one of the key whistleblowers in Flint’s water crisis, has himself said that meeting the federal Lead and Copper Rule Standard is nothing to brag about, because the rule is substantially out of date.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) has pushed for Michigan to have its own, better version of a Lead and Copper Rule that addresses that. He was shocked by the governor’s decision on Friday.
“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. That trust was broken, and families in Flint still don’t feel that the water in their homes is safe to drink,” he said in a statement. “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.”