Four years after the start of the Flint water crisis, Michigan's governor, Rick Snyder, has announced that the state will no longer provide free bottled water to residents of the beleaguered city.
Governor Snyder said that his decision was not a hasty one, but one backed by science. He pointed out that the lead levels in Flint’s water have been on the decline and below levels that require government intervention for two years.
“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,” Snyder said in a statement. “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.”
Many have blamed Snyder for the water crisis in Flint. With the city in dire financial straits, Snyder appointed emergency managers in 2011 to take over municipal functions and save the city money. In 2014, those emergency managers switched the city’s water supply from the more expensive Detroit water system to the corrosive Flint River, causing the city’s antiquated lead pipes to excrete the toxic substance into Flint homes and businesses.
The crisis caused dangerously elevated lead levels in children and has been linked to 12 fatal cases of Legionnaires’ disease, a pneumonia-like illness. Two of the emergency managers have since been charged with felonies due to their decision to switch the water supply.
Despite Snyder's confidence in his decision, Flint city officials have questioned the governor’s decision to end the free bottled water program, citing the lingering uncertainty about when Flint’s water will be unquestionably safe for every resident.
“There are still questions that remain,” Pamela Pugh, Flint’s chief public health advisor, said in a statement. “We have not received clear steps as to how the remaining lead in Flint schools will be remediated or how ongoing monitoring will continue for our most vulnerable populations. Additionally, the medical community has continuously raised questions as to how special populations, including nursing and bottle-feeding mothers, will receive bottled water while massive pipe replacement work is ongoing.”
According to the New York Times, the Flint city government is working with contractors to replace all affected water lines by 2020. So far, more than 6,200 lines have been replaced, and an estimated 12,000 more could remain.
“We did not cause the man-made water disaster,” Flint’s mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement. “Therefore adequate resources should continue being provided until the problem is fixed and all the lead and galvanized pipes have been replaced.”
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