FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Residents of Flint confronting increased lead levels in children after a change in the Michigan city’s water source are getting free water filters from the state along with donations of bottled water, as local officials take steps to ensure safe drinking water.
Filters are available beginning Tuesday through a partnership between the Michigan Department of Health Human Services and the Genesee County Community Action Resource Department. Residents on public assistance and others are encouraged to bring their ID and water bill to one of four local offices.
About 5,500 filters have already been distributed through private donations. And on Tuesday, Flint officials announced bottled water donations from a grocery chain as well as a monthlong water donation drive for distribution to senior citizen centers and schools.
“Our children are a top priority given the effects lead can have on their development,” Mayor Dayne Walling said in a statement. “Any bottled water donations we receive will be used for our children and other high risk groups, such as our seniors.”
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Shifting its position, the state last week confirmed elevated blood lead levels in Flint consistent with what local doctors found in a study and pledged at least $1 million in funding. The percentage of kids with above-average lead levels tripled in two ZIP codes.
After a public health emergency was declared last week by Genesee County, Sheriff Robert Pickell started ordering water and dry foods for the jail. He told The Flint Journal that his department already has spent $4,800 on water and $5,500 on food for employees and inmates.
“We ordered water right after the emergency resolution from the county,” Pickell said. “We also ordered what we call dry food, where we don’t have to use water.”
Pickell said he didn’t think the jail was affected by high lead levels, but he’s waiting on state water test results for the facility.
Individuals, charities and other private organizations have held bottled water giveaways for weeks. The Genesee County Health Department said the United Way is working to secure water filter systems for Flint schools, which sought bottled water donations.
On Wednesday, the Technical Advisory Committee — a panel of water experts that has been dormant for months — is expected to return to work in Flint. The mayor’s office said the committee will discuss short- to long-term issues for the water system.
Meanwhile, organizers announced the postponement of the Flint River Fest. Flint started using the Flint River for its water supply last year, switching from Detroit’s water system to cut costs.
“We have a lot to celebrate with the Flint River, but due to the current drinking water crisis we thought it was appropriate to postpone the Flint River Fest until all issues at hand are addressed at hand are appropriately addressed by city and state officials,” the nonprofit Flint River Corridor Alliance said in a statement on its website.