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Sentinel teams monitoring water in 400 Flint homes

Feb 13, 2016

Teams of plumbers, employees with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Flint residents have started visiting 400 homes in Flint this week. The state of Michigan calls these homes “sentinel sites.”

The state says 156 of these homes are known to have lead service lines. Other homes are places where kids have tested high for lead in their blood.

Bryce Feighner is with the MDEQ.

"The purpose is to monitor these sites, which should be higher in terms of lead and monitor those over time to see if corrosion control is working and when we can say water is back to normal and it's safe," he says.

A Flint resident is on each team.

Ronnie Russell is a community member who's on one of the sentinel teams.
Credit Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Ronnie Russell lives on the edge of the city. He says having a city resident on each team helps make homeowners comfortable opening their door to the state workers.

"It eases them, you know? When you see Caucasian people knocking on your door at 9 o'oclock in the morning in a state van: uh oh!" he laughs. "So, a lot of times, I knock on the door, and most of the homes I've been in, I knew 80% of them, so we talk."

Russell says people just don't trust the state government right now.

“Trust level, is zero percent. Ain’t no 50 percent, they at zero percent. Can you imagine not having good water for two years?”

The teams will be visiting each of these homes every two weeks to monitor the water over time.

Ricky Smith Jr. is a plumber with United Association Local 370. He says they’re checking service lines and plumbing in each house.

“Getting them set up on this sampling program, so that they can kind of monitor the pipes in the system to make sure this water is coming back to be drinkable and be trustworthy,” he says.