Federal state of emergency in Flint expires, free bottled water available

FLINT, Mich., Aug. 14 (UPI) — The federal state of emergency in Flint, Mich. expired Sunday, but city officials are assuring residents free bottled water is available.

The residents of the 100,000-population city north of Detroit have been avoiding tap water because of the lead water crisis.

“August 14 is just a date on the calendar, and as Governor [Rick] Snyder has said, we will make decisions based on science, not arbitrary dates,” said Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy state Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD in a statement.

President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration in January, paying 75 percent of the costs of the bottled water, filters and cartridges. Now, the state will pick up the entire bill, which is about $3.5 million every month, Michigan Radio reported.

Since Jan. 9, more than 2.2 million cases of bottled water, more than 130,200 water filters, more than 287,000 replacement cartridges and more than 52,600 at-home water testing kits have been distributed to Flint water system customers, according to the release.

“Until the water meets quality standards, we will provide water supplies to Flint water system customers at the water resource sites,” Kelenske said in the statement.

State officials said Flint residents won’t notice any loss of water emergency services as the state takes on the additional costs, according to the release. All other federal and state programs and services dealing with the problem will continue as well.

“The Flint system is on its way to recovery,” said Marc Edwards, leading a team of engineering professors from Virginia Tech, said at a news conference Friday. But he added, “No one is saying the water is safe to drink yet.”

Testing of more than 170 residences showed lead levels declining by as much as 60 percent below previous tests, researchers said.

Testing in 2015 by the Virginia Tech research team and Flint residents revealed high levels of lead and other problems with the city’s water.

A state-appointed emergency manager for the city began using the Flint River as the city’s water supply to save money in April 2014. For 18 months, the corrosive water leached lead from aging city pipes and fixtures into the public water supply.

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