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A year after Flint’s emergency declaration, state says bottled water isn’t needed

Dec 14, 2016

National Guardsmen delivered bottled water in Flint at the beginning of this year.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Here we are at the one-year anniversary of the declaration of emergency in Flint, and we’re in the midst of an all-out tug-of-war between the state of Michigan and federal judge David Lawson.

Twice now, Judge Lawson has ordered the state to deliver bottled water to certain Flint residents.

But the state continues to fight that order.

Lindsey Smith, Michigan Radio’s west Michigan reporter, joined Stateside to discuss.

“This is the first time you’re really seeing the state make the case that the water is technically safe to drink,” Smith said. “This is according to existing federal regulations.”

Smith said there are still parts of the city, even in the last month, that saw lead levels exceeding 15 ppb, the federal guideline.

“But the system taken as a whole now appears to have numbers that are similar to other water systems in Michigan that have lead service lines,” she said. “I mean, you’re going to have spikes here and there, but taken as a whole, the water is definitely looking good.”

The state’s position is that it's set up places around Flint where residents can pick up free filters, cartridges and bottled water. If people need a delivery, they can call 2-1-1.

But not everyone believes that’s enough.

“I mean, there are plenty of people arguing that it’s not working,” she said. “When I was in Flint a couple of weeks ago, I asked people about this and one lady was like, ‘2-1-1 is a joke.’”

Right now, the state isn't saying bottled water is necessary in Flint.

“They outright say, ‘Bottled water is not needed. You can use – everybody can drink filtered water,’” Smith said. “So you can sort of see how the state is gearing up to say, ‘We shouldn’t have to provide bottled water, we’re providing filters. And, because the water may technically be within existing federal guidelines, you know, do we even need filters?’”

To hear the full interview with Smith, listen above.

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