(FLINT, MI)– Mayor Karen Weaver held a press conference Wednesday with state officials, community partners and pastors to announce that free bottled water and filters will continue to be available to Flint residents through state-run Point of Distribution Sites (PODS).
“There has been a lot of talk lately, with people saying the PODS were going to close soon and many residents were worried,” said Mayor Weaver.
The recent discussion was brought on by terms identified in the settlement agreement reached in the Concerned Pastors for Social Action case in April of this year. The settlement stated if Flint’s water quality met federal testing requirements for two consecutive 6-month monitoring periods, the state could begin gradually closing the PODS in July, with all the PODS possibly being closed by September.
“Grassroots organizations and residents joined forces to express their concerns about the health and well-being of our community if the bottle water and filters were no longer provided,” said Weaver. “I want residents to know that I understand your frustrations and concerns and I have taken them to the governor and let him and other state officials know that just because the settlement says you “can” close the PODS, doesn’t mean you “should” and residents are not ready for these resources to go away. I am pleased to say that state officials, have heard your voices as well, and have agreed to keep some of the PODS open indefinitely.”
City and state officials along with community leaders have formed a plan in that all but two of the less-trafficked and convenient PODS will remain open through the summer. Beyond that, four PODS – one on each side of Flint (north, east, south, and west) – will remain open indefinitely. The PODS slated to remain open are located at: Mt. Carmel Baptist Church (1st Ward), Franklin Ave. Lot (4th Ward), West Court Street Church of God (6th Ward), Eastown Bowling Alley (9th Ward).
Also at the press conference, state officials reported that testing shows the water quality in Flint continues to improve. They said the City of Flint’s water system has again tested well below action levels of the federal Lead and Copper Rule for the second consecutive 6-month monitoring period. The latest round of testing shows that 90 percent of the Tier I samples collected are at or below 7 parts per billion (PPB), which is less than half of the federal action level.
“Restoration of Flint’s water quality is a significant milestone for the city and is the result of many partners on the local, county, state and federal levels, as well as independent experts working together,” said Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and former interim director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality who remains the principal on Flint water. “The city’s water is one of the most monitored systems in the U.S. with respect to lead, and the department remains committed to making sure residents continue receiving quality water.”
The 90th percentile lead value of samples collected from Tier 1 sites for the 6-month compliance period between Jan. 1, 2017, and June 30, 2017, was 7 ppb with 94.5 percent of the samples at or below the15 PPB federal action level for lead. A Tier I site is considered at higher risk per federal guidelines. This includes homes that have a lead service line or meet other criteria that make it an eligible location to determine compliance with the federal LCR. The 90th percentile lead value for the previous 6-month compliance period between July 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2016, was 12 PPB. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also provided a letter concurring with the latest testing data results.
“Make no mistake about it, according to the data, Flint’s water quality has been restored,” said Rich Baird, senior advisor to Governor Snyder and team leader for the state’s Mission Flint Office. “But we also understand and want to be sensitive and responsive to residents’ concerns, which is why four PODs will remain open to provide residents additional time to prepare for the ultimate transition to using only filtered water.”
“As mayor of Flint, it’s important for residents to know that I hear and understand their concerns and am working on their behalf,” said Mayor Karen Weaver. “While it is great to see that test results show water quality in Flint continues to improve, I also understand that due to the manmade water crisis residents no longer trust the system and it will take time to rebuild that trust. Many people tell me they just aren’t ready to rely solely on water straight from the tap and I expressed those concerns to the governor. I am grateful that state officials along with business and community leaders have agreed to answer the calls from the community by working with me, and my Administration, to keep four PODs open indefinitely. This is what happens when leaders work together to do what is best for the people and it will take all of us working together to continue to move Flint forward.”
Out of an abundance of caution, residents are encouraged to use water filters in areas where construction activities are taking place to remove service lines. The state will continue to provide free water filters, replacement cartridges and water testing kits until service line replacement is completed.
“We don’t want to be on bottled water forever and we are headed in the right direction,” Weaved said. “Yes, residents are still being urged to use filters and that is because crews working with the FAST Start pipe replacement program are out working everyday removing and replacing lead tainted pipes which is a great thing. As of this week, crews have replaced more than 2,520 pipes since FAST Start began, and our goal is to replace a total of 6,000 this year. So while that work is being done, we want residents to continue using the filters.
Residents can call 810-238-6700 with questions about filter usage or to schedule a home visit by a Community Outreach and Resident Education (CORE) member. The CORE program was established to ensure Flint residents are properly installing, using and maintaining their water filters and aware of available resources. CORE teams are comprised of hired Flint residents going door-to-door to assist fellow residents.
Residents are reminded to ensure verification of official CORE credentials before allowing an individual into their home. Credentials include an official blue Flint Water Response Team badge with a security hologram, a GST MichiganWorks! badge with photo identification and a bright yellow vest. Team members will be ready to and are required to display their two pieces of identification at all times, and especially upon approach of a home.