By Kiana Stockwell
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced that the free bottled water program for residents of Flint, Michigan will end when supplies run out, according to CNN.
Four years ago, the city of 100,000 began suffering from high levels of lead in the city’s water, after switching its source from Lake Huron to the nearby Flint River to save money, according to CNN. The city has since gone back to drawing water from Lake Huron, but reducing levels of contamination has been a lengthy process.
“The scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended,” Snyder said on April 6, according to Reuters. “Since Flint’s water is now well within the standards set by the federal government, we will now focus even more of our efforts on continuing with the health, education and economic development assistance needed to help move Flint forward.”
Residents experienced side effects including rashes and hair loss from the tainted tap water. Since a 2016 Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Emergency Order, Flint has been operating on a $450 million state and federal aid package that includes free bottled water and pipe replacement. Providing water bottles to residents costs the state of Michigan $650,000 per month, according to The Hill.
Sites that hand out bottled water will shut down within days. Though the amount of lead and copper in Flint’s water was found to be 4 parts per billion, several levels below the federal limit of 15 ppb, the decision remains controversial, according to U.S. News.
A federal judge ordered Flint officials to replace the lead-based pipes of 18,000 homes by 2020, but many residents who have been affected still do not trust the tap water’s safety, according to U.S. News.
“My water stinks. It still burns to take a shower. There’s no way they can say it’s safe,” said Flint resident Melissa Mays, according to U.S. News.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver believes that eliminating the program is unethical, as she and other residents of the city still do not believe that the water is completely safe.
“Over the past few weeks, residents of Flint have been expressing their great anxiety over the potential end to the supply of bottled water,” said Karen Weaver, mayor of Flint, according to U.S. News. “Free bottled water should be provided to the people of Flint until the last known lead-tainted pipe has been replaced.”
Many residents believe the move is premature, and fear being able to afford the amount of bottled water it takes to do things like bathe and wash dishes.
“I don’t trust the water. Period,” said Flint resident Debra Coleman, according to CNN. “It could be five years from now and I’ll still never drink this water.”