Flint's Mayor Says Clean Water Is a Moral Issue

May 15, 2018

By Max Godnick

The mayor of Flint, Mich., is battling the state's governor over her city's access to safe water, three years after intolerable levels of lead were discovered.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said last month that the levels of lead in the city's water supply have returned to normal, making it unnecessary to supply Flint with free bottled water. Mayor, Karen Weaver, threatened to sue the state because she said the city is still reeling from the effects of the crisis.

"You still have a public health issue and you have to protect yourselves, so the need for bottled and filtered water is still real," Weaver said Tuesday in an interview with Cheddar.

The governor's office announced its decision to end free bottled water for Flint after nearly two years of test results showed decreasing lead levels in the city's running water. The mayor said she was "shocked" by the decision, and that residents in her city are still not satisfied with the quality of their water.

In a statement, Snyder's office said taxpayers have provided $350 million to Flint, in addition to $100 million the city received from the federal government. "We have worked diligently to restore the water quality, and the scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended," the statement said.

Weaver told Cheddar she will not rest until the medical community signs off on Flint's water quality. She said the state should not be handling the crisis as a logistical, infrastructural, or environmental problem, but rather, as a moral one.

"When you had the biggest hand in poisoning a city and making this crisis happen, you ought to have some moral, some ethical responsibility to seeing us through this crisis," said Weaver. "You put us in this situation and you need to make us whole and see us getting through this process."

In 2014, the city switched its water supply to the Flint River, and quickly saw dangerous levels of lead in its tap water. Flint residents have been able to pick up cases of free water at four distribution centers since January 2016.

Weaver said the city's clean-water issues go beyond the quality of its water and include damaged plumbing systems, water heaters, and water fixtures that all still require fixing.

"There's a list of other things, in addition to this bottled water, that we're exploring right now as we look at our legal options for going against the state," Weaver said.

Flint residents have little faith in their water supply, and trust in the government's ability to address the systemic issues has eroded.

"For a year and a half, we were told the water was good, when people know brown water is bad," said Weaver.

She said restoring public trust is a matter of ensuring a transparent flow of information between the city and its residents.

"If it's good news or bad news, they deserve to know, because that's what didn't happen before," she said.

For the full interview, click here.