If residents in Flint, Michigan, need some bottled water, they can’t rely on the state anymore. The city of nearly 100,000 is still reeling—nearly four years later—from a crisis that left residents (and their children) exposed to dangerous levels of lead in their water supply.
However, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced Friday everything is fine—so fine, in fact, that the state is closing down the four remaining water distribution centers in the city, as well as deliveries to people who are homebound. If anyone needs a filter, though, they can go ahead and head to City Hall to pick one up.
The state and Gov. Rick Snyder are defending this move with a simple fact: For the past two years, the city’s water has tested below the lead action levels required under the Lead and Copper Rule. Just about all samples tested for lead came in at four parts per billion (ppb), and the federal action level is 15 ppb. In all fairness, water systems across the U.S. see lead levels much more severe than Flint’s.
“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,” said Snyder, in a press release. “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.”
Science should be what determines decisions these days. However, Flint residents are not going to start drinking their tap water again—filtered or not. Why? Because their trust is gone. In 2016, a poll showed 70 percent of residents don’t trust filtered water is safe to drink. How can they trust state officials didn’t fudge these water tests the way they did when the crisis began?
Sure, the city is undergoing a major pipeline replacement where people’s homes will be outfitted with entirely new water pipes, but is it enough? Can replacing pipes rebuild trust?
I don’t know. I do know that without this state-sponsored water distribution program, Flint residents are going to have another cost to worry about. Nearly half of city residents live below the poverty line, and they’re already having trouble paying for their monthly water bills. How will they foot additional bottled water costs, too?