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Genesee Co. reserve sheriff's deputies handing out water filters in Flint

Jan 7, 2016

Officials are now going door to door in Flint handing out water filters.

Genesee County reserve sheriff's deputies have started going door to door handing out bottled water and filters to people in Flint
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Genesee County reserve sheriff’s deputies started knocking on doors just after 10 am in a neighborhood on the city’s north side.  If someone answers, deputies  hand out bottled water and filters to homeowners who need them. 

While thousands of water filters have been handed out, many people in Flint are still not using them to filter lead from their drinking water.

Sheriff Robert Pickell says the homes in this neighborhood are some of the oldest in town, with some dating back to 1900. 

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell (right) looks at a map of the north side neighborhood where reserve deputies and people sentenced to community service are distributing water and filters door to door
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Pickell says these homes are the ones “most likely have the lead lines.”

Those old pipes are likely leeching lead into the drinking water, due to the city’s disastrous switch to the Flint River in 2014 without corrosion controls.

The city switched back to Detroit water last fall, but health experts say Flint’s water is still not safe to drink.

In December, Flint’s newly elected mayor declared a ‘state of emergency’ because of the lead problem. This month, the county and the state followed suit. 

Officials hope a federal disaster declaration will lead to millions of dollars in aid to the city. 

But Sheriff Pickell is concerned the “bureaucracy” created by the recent State of Emergency declaration will actually make it harder to help people.

In the meantime, the sheriff says they will try to reach as many people as possible by going door to door handing out bottled water and filters.

“This is going to be an every day operation,” says Pickell. “We’re just going to make sure we get filters to everyone.”

Many of the people who received filters today have been using bottled water for more than a year. Some received filters from the state last fall, but those filters no longer work.