Flint restaurants working to get the lead out of their water

Feb 5, 2016

There’s a sign on the front door of Blackstone’s Pub and Grill in downtown Flint.  It reads: Water Test: Lead Free.   

Flint eateries have seen their business decline amid the city's lead tainted drinking water crisis
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Business is down at many Flint restaurants. Their owners blame the city’s drinking water crisis, but there’s a push on now to change people’s minds.

State, county, and local officials held a news conference today to show what’s being done to make sure the water used to prepare food, and the water used for ice is lead free.

At one point, reporters jammed into Blackstone’s kitchen, where Tom Tederington with the state Agriculture Department demonstrated what they look for to determine if an eating establishment is in compliance with new rules.

"There’s your NSF standard 53," says Tederington as he points at a wall mounted filter connected to the ice and soda machines.

"This is an approved filter for removing lead," he says.

Tederington says restaurants need more than the average filter being used in most Flint homes these days. That's because they use much more water.

Officials say Flint’s nearly 200 other eating establishments should all be following new rules to eliminate lead. 

“We’ve had about 70% to 75% in compliance,” says Tederington.    

Officials say they are working with the rest to come into compliance.

Patty Bergstrom is with Blackstone’s in downtown Flint. She says her restaurant has taken several steps, including installing an $800 filter.

She says her restaurant has taken several steps, including installing an $800 filter.

“We do have the new filtration system in. We do flush our prep sinks daily. We’re always running our water,” says Bergstrom. 

But she says the restaurant’s business is still noticeably down.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley wants to encourage people to patronize Flint’s eateries. 

"People often ask me what can I do to help in Flint," Calley told reporters. "One of the things I’d love to see is people making their first trip to Flint ever to come to one of these restaurants."