No More Free Water Bottles For Flint Residents

Donated water bottles in Flint in 2016.
Donated water bottles in Flint in 2016.
Photo: AP

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?


Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.



Science says the water is safe, so there is no reason why those in poverty should be buying water bottles. This article is trying to make an issue where none exists.

Sure, they could be lying about the water being safe, but then free water bottles would be the least of our concerns if they are faking water tests amid national attention.

But until then, if you don’t want to drink the water because you don’t trust them, that is your choice, but also your responsibility to buy your own water bottles. And while you can try to argue about restoring trust, the only way to earn trust is to provide safe water in the pipes, and have people drink it. Bottled water can never accomplish that, it does the opposite actually. You don’t get people to trust that your water is safe, by giving them water from somewhere else.