It has now been more than a year since Flint, Mich., Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency in the city due to lead contamination in the water supply.
When the story broke in the mainstream media, bottled water donations began pouring in. A year later, many residents still rely on bottled water—and although the Flint crisis is still making headlines, bottled water donations are dwindling.
Progress is being made to repair the city’s infrastructure, but it’s slow going, in no small part due to the city’s financial issues. According to an NPR report, approximately 600 lead pipes were replaced in 2016. In December, Congress approved $170 million in aid for Flint, but it may not be enough to repair the remaining 30,000 “suspect lines”—which also could take years.
In the meantime, Flint residents continue to rely on bottled water. According to NPR, some residents must travel far from home to pick up bottled water from designated locations, such as the city bus terminal or city hall. Nearly 150,000 water filters were distributed, but according to the report, people don’t trust them.
Education is clearly needed, and some companies, such as Pur, have made efforts to help Flint residents understand how water filters can make their tap water safe to drink. Unfortunately, there are lots of misunderstandings about what water filters can and can’t do, not just in Flint, but across the U.S. The misunderstandings go both directions: The problem in Flint seems to be that people are unsure their filters remove lead like they claim to, meanwhile I’ve corrected many friends and family who believed their filter pitchers could remove much more than they are able to (namely, pathogens).
While information is available to consumers through certification bodies like NSF Intl. or the Water Quality Assn. that can help them determine what their filters can and can’t do, many people may not know where to look for it or even what to look for. Add into the mix some unscrupulous entities schilling counterfeit filters online and even trying to pass them off as certified, and it becomes easy to see how consumers can become confused and mistrustful.
Education can start at a customer’s home. When you are installing a system, take the opportunity to provide education on the technologies and how they improve the customer’s water. But it doesn’t have to end there. Communicate regularly with your customers via email, social media and your website to provide education and dispel myths about water quality and treatment technologies (for some great tips on how to do this from the Good Marketing Group, see page 30). Offer yourself up as an expert to local media if a water quality issue arises in your town. Our industry has the expertise to help the people of Flint and beyond find trust in their filters—and their water—once again.