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NPR NEWS 2018-04-12
04-12-2018, 10:42 PM
Post: #1
NPR NEWS 2018-04-12

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It's been two years since the peak of the drinking water CRIsis in Flint, Mich. The state has spent more than $16 million to distribute free bottled water to residents. That program ends this week even as some residents say they still don't trust the safety of their water supply. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports.
STEPHEN CARMODY, BYLINE: On a cold afternoon yesterday, as late April flurries swirled in the air, Teresa Wells sat in her car in a long line with others stretching past fast-food shops and strip clubs on Flint's south side. She was waiting to pick up a few of the remaining cases of bottled water at one of the city's four distribution centers, and she wasn't happy.
TERESA WELLS: You know, it is bad enough we got to take a shower and wash your hair in it. I'm just upset about it. You know, I'm paying buck-oh (ph) taxes for what? For poison water?
CARMODY: It's become something of a mantra here for many Flint residents to say that their water is poisoned since in a move to save money four years ago, Flint's drinking water source was switched to the Flint River, and improperly treated river water damaged city pipes, which leached lead into the drinking water. Since then, the water source was switched back, and pipes are being replaced. Experts say Flint's water supply is now safe to drink.
MARC EDWARDS: All the parameters are showing Flint water is in the range of other cities with old pipes.
CARMODY: That's Dr. Marc Edwards, the water treatment expert whose team of researchers from Virginia Tech first discovered that Flint's drinking water far exceeded federal guidelines for lead three years ago. Recent testing shows significantly improved water quality. The federal action level for lead is 15 parts per billion. Recent state tests show lead levels in the drinking water here now at about 4 parts per billion. State officials say any remaining lead can be screened out using water filters, which the state will continue to provide free to Flint residents.
But convincing those residents to trust government officials who say their water is safe is a tough sell, in part because state officials initially downplayed problems with Flint's water. Some are even facing CRIminal charges for allegedly manipulating data to make lead levels appear lower. Ari Adler is a spokesman for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and says it's crucial to convince residents here to start using their tap water again.
ARI ADLER: If we want people to be confident in the water that they're getting out of their taps, we can't say that in one breath and then in another one say, oh, but here is bottled water that you can have if you want. The water's good to drink, and that's what we would encourage people to do.
CARMODY: The state has distributed millions of cases of bottled water at a cost of $22,000 a day. But they say with the new test results, that can stop, though Flint residents like LaShaya Darisaw still don't believe the water is safe to drink.
LASHAYA DARISAW: Although lead levels have decreased, residents believe that chemicals and bacteria in the water are at an all-time high.
CARMODY: The supply of free bottled water is expected to run out this week. Some Flint residents will travel to the state capitol tomorrow to urge state officials to keep distributing bottled water until all of the city's old lead pipes are replaced. For NPR News, I'm Steve Carmody in Flint.
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