FLINT, MI – Mayor Karen Weaver and state officials say Flint will have at least four state-run water distribution sites also known as Points of Distribution sites or PODs “indefinitely.”
“Flint residents have spoken out,” Weaver said during a July 26, 2017, press conference at Flint City Hall regarding the city’s water crisis. “We’ve talked about not wanting the PODs to close. We don’t want the bottled water and the filters to go away. We want those to continue to be provided and the grassroots organizations and residents have joined forces to express their concerns about the health and well being of our community.”
The move comes after a Tuesday, July 25, 2017, meeting Weaver and a group of local pastors had with Gov. Rick Snyder and state staff.
“On behalf of Gov. Snyder I want to reiterate the state’s commitment to both supporting the mayor and her leadership in serving the residents of Flint,” said Snyder’s senior adviser Richard Baird who was at both the July 25 meeting and the July 26 press conference. “The Mayor was right when she said we heard the concerns of the community loud and clear. We’re able to look at…options to continue with a plan to operate at least four pods…make no mistake about Flint’s water quality has been restored.”
A lawsuit settlement with the state, Concerned Pastors for Social Action and community activist, Melissa Mays agreed to allow the state to end PODs in Flint if the city’s water met federal standards for two consecutive six-month monitoring periods.
“Just because the settlement says you can close the pods doesn’t mean you should,” said Weaver. “I’m pleased to say state officials have heard our voices as well and they’ve agreed to keep some of the PODs open indefinitely…and that’s great news for the people of Flint.”
Weaver was also joined by Keith Creagh, former director of Michigan DEQ, Capt. Chris Kelenske who serves as deputy state director for the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division during the July 26 press conference.
“The water quality has met and has actually (fallen) below the federal level the past 12 months,” said Kelenske. “That means we can legally close the PODs as others have discussed but we are not going to do that.”
According to state and local officials, Flint’s water test at 7 parts per billion which below the federal action level of 15 ppb allowed by the EPA.
“The Flint water system, thanks to great efforts by people at the water plant and those who have responsibility for the water its made dramatic improvements,” said Creagh. “As you may have heard, Flint’s water certainly is one of the most monitored water systems in the US with respect to lead and the city’s water quality is the same as similar cities across the state and country.”
Beginning Aug. 11 the state will start closing PODs in Flint’s second and third wards.
“In no way shape or form should Flint be losing any PODs. In the midst of this crisis and Flint is still in a crisis, no POD should be closed,” said Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson. “As long as we have to use filters the PODs should be in place. Again, the council was not at the table. I did not receive any invitation to participate in a meeting with the Mayor and the Governor. We should be part of the conversation. This decision impacts our wards.” Nelson represents the third ward on Flint’s north side.
In September Flint’s fifth, seventh and eighth wards will lose state-run PODs while sites in the city’s first, fourth and sixth wards will remain open leaving at least one POD on the north, south, east and west sides of Flint.
Kelenske said a number of factors were used in the decision as to which PODs would be kept open including average number visits and ability to accommodate increased traffic. Kelenske added that Officials said various communications including fliers, radio and television advertising and website updates will be made to help residents prepare and transition from having nine PODs to having four by fall.
So far, officials say the state is spending about $2 million per month in water distribution in Flint.
There are no details as to what “indefinitely” means for Flint residents but Pastor Wallace Hill who represented the Concerned Pastors for Social Action during the press conference said the decision to keep PODs in Flint was partly because some Flint residents still have concerns and trust issues regarding the city’s water crisis and whether their water is safe to drink.
“We’re not really certain how long it will be,” Hill said. “We think that the water is okay but the trust factor of our residents is not there and we don’t want to pull the rug out (from under them). People have to grow into and accept the fact that the water is okay.”