It's been five years since the city of Flint switched its drinking water source from Detroit's system to the Flint River. That decision that would kick off a years-long public health crisis and impact the health of the city's nearly 100,000 residents.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, who was elected to that position in November 2015, joined Stateside to talk about the “tremendous progress” Flint has made since that fateful switch.
Weaver says that water tests have regularly come back with “good results,” and that the city's effort to replace lead and galvanized pipelines should wrap up by the end of this summer.
Despite those achievements, however, she’s advised her community to keep drinking bottled and filtered water for the time being.
“Until we get all of the pipes replaced, we’re going to err on the side of putting health and well-being above everything,” Weaver said.
But that’s not to say that all of Flint’s struggles are over. The city’s water rates are still some of the highest in the nation. Weaver blames that, in part, on the fact that Flint’s infrastructure was built to support a population more than double its current size.
“When your city is cut in half, you still have those same water rates and half the population to pay for that,” Weaver said.
Flint residents are also waiting for the legal system to hold city and state officials responsible for the roles they played in causing and prolonging the crisis.
“While charges have been made, no one has really been held accountable for what has happened in the city of Flint,” Weaver said.
She predicts that it will “take a number of years” for government officials to earn the trust of Flint residents. That’s why the city hired an independent agency to test local water supplies, a task that was also being carried out by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Weaver is pleased with the positive developments happening in and around Flint, but she says it’s “too bad” that it took a major crisis to kick start that process. She hopes that the national and international attention Flint has garnered has served as a wake up call.
“We have made this country have a conversation that was long overdue about water quality standards and about infrastructure, and I think that’s a wonderful thing,” Weaver said.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas.