Last month marked the four-year anniversary of the Flint, Mich., water crisis, when the city switched its water source from Detroit water to the Flint River. Coinciding with the anniversary, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced an end to the state’s free bottled water program in Flint on April 6.
Karen Weaver, mayor of Flint, heard of the decision minutes before it was made public, according to a statement.
“We did not cause the man-made water disaster, therefore adequate resources should continue being provided until the problem is fixed and all the lead and galvanized pipes have been replaced,” Weaver said in the statement. “I will be contacting the Governor’s office immediately to express the insensitivity of the decision he made today and to make sure he is aware of the additional needs that I have requested for the residents of Flint.”
Flint water currently tests at 4 ppb lead, below the federal standard of 15 ppb. Snyder called this level “superior to Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Philadelphia,” according to The Detroit News. However, many residents are still apprehensive to drink straight from the taps, uneasiness that likely stems from the misinformation they’ve received over the past four years.
“I just have no trust in anything they say, because they make these claims and then shortly thereafter, it turns out that they weren’t telling the truth,” Flint resident Joyce Wilson told the New York Times.
At press time, there are no plans to reinstate the bottled water program. Snyder and other state officials have emphasized the need for residents to reduce their reliance on the bottled water and return to their taps, while others, including Attorney General Bill Schuette, believe the program should continue until the lead service lines have been replaced—an endeavor expected to be complete by 2020. In the meantime, residents rushed to bottled water distribution centers to collect the free water before it ran out.
Meanwhile, in Cape Town, South Africa, the communication between the government and residents seems to be the antithesis to Flint. As I’ve discussed in this space in the past few months, the government has been in constant contact with residents since the catastrophic drought conditions began, providing resources and assistance as needed. Because of these efforts, the city seems to have avoided a total shutoff, at least this year. Other cities should look to this as an example of the power of mutual communication and trust between municipalities and residents to enact positive change.