As of Wednesday, residents of Flint, Michigan, will have to pay full price for their water, though they still can’t drink it without a filter. Since the water crisis began in 2014 the state has put roughly $41 million toward offsetting local utility bills, giving Flint residents a 65 percent credit and businesses a 20 percent credit toward their water bills. The Washington Post reports that state officials are now ending that program because levels of lead in the city’s water system no longer exceed federal limits.
“This is good news and the result of many partners on the local, county, state and federal levels working together to restore the water quality in the City of Flint,” said Heidi Grether, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “The Flint water system is one of the most monitored systems in the country for lead and copper, and that commitment will remain to ensure residents continue to have access to clean water.”
While that may be a step in the right direction, residents are still advised not to drink unfiltered tap water, and the state will continue to provide filters. It’s expected to take several years to replace the pipes that were damaged when untreated water was unintentionally run through the system in an attempt to cut costs.
“When they’re replacing a main or they’re replacing a pipe some of the lead and other contaminants can become dislodged and get into the main, and that can affect water for your neighbors down the street, on the next block,” said Anna Keaton, Governor Rick Snyder’s press secretary. “That’s why out of an abundance of caution we are continuing to provide filters, but that construction is expected to go on for two to three years.”
Many residents don’t trust reports that Flint’s filtered tap water is safe, and are still relying on bottled water.
On Tuesday night, Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Flint, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who helped bring the water contamination to light, said they were disappointed that President Trump did not mention the ongoing crisis in Flint in his address to Congress, and reminded him that he promised the problem would be “fixed quickly and effectively” if he were elected.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha attended the speech as Kildee’s guest. She immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq as a young child, and the congressman said he hoped her presence would highlight both Flint’s plight and the “many important contributions immigrants make to our nation.”
In their statement, Kildee and Hanna-Attisha also criticized the president for proposing cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. “If we have learned anything from the Flint water crisis, it is that we should be strengthening – not weakening – protections to ensure clean drinking water,” they said. “Now is not the time to be cutting support for the important work federal agencies are doing to protect our environment, promote public health and support our children.”