Responders have covered Flint twice with bottled water

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Flint — Emergency teams say they have covered the city with door-to-door bottled water deliveries twice since Gov. Rick Snyder’s state of emergency declaration over concerns of lead in the city’s water supply, authorities reported Monday.

With distribution by emergency teams with the National Guard combined with efforts from the Red Cross, officials believe they have reached out to virtually all homes at least once. Of 37,000 homes reached, there were only 5,660 instances in which no one came to the door, officials said.

Since Jan. 9, water response teams, in addition to five water resource distribution sites at local fire stations, distributed an estimated 165,000 cases of water, more than 91,000 filters and 28,700 water test kits, Michigan State Police Special 1st Lt. David Kaiser said.

“As we move to the next phase of our response efforts, door-to-door efforts will continue but will become increasingly targeted to insure we reach every home,” Kaiser said Monday.

Kaiser also noted there is no plan to discontinue water resource sites yet, saying: “We recognize this situation is a marathon and not just a sprint.”

According to the Michigan National Guard and state agencies, in the three weeks since the state declaration and nine days since President Barack Obama authorized federal assistance for Flint, approximately 200 soldiers and airmen have assisted in water distribution efforts throughout the city.

“Of course in the military, we count everything right, and we calculated that we’ve covered 65 percent of the city with our soldiers and airmen, and we will continue to be here as long as the city of Flint needs us,” Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadanais of the Michigan National Guard said in statement. “We realize even though we have gone through the city twice that there probably people who weren’t home.”

The city’s five water distribution points will continue to remain open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily with no plans to close. Vadanais said those who were not home when the water response teams visited should call 211 and a team will deliver supplies.

As of Monday, there are 70 national guardsmen on the ground at distribution points across the city.

Meanwhile, information sharing between the National Guard and other agencies is handled on a day-to-day basis by the Emergency Information Operations Center, Kaiser said. The Michigan State Police, Michigan National Guard, Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and the Red Cross are assisting.

“In that operation center, we have department heads from the state police, DEQ, EPA — a wide variety of state heads in the same room that meet daily,” Kaiser said. “We want to keep people safe and keep them informed. We’re not going anywhere, what we’re doing right now is a Band-Aid until they can fix the infrastructure.”

Capt. Casey Tafoya of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office said the process of sharing information between the Department of Environmental Quality, the state, the city and the county is running smoothly compared with operations earlier this month.

“Where we’re keeping (the water), the logistics of it, we’ve refined the process and worked out the kinks along the way,” Tafoya said. “We got a very good handle on it now.”

Officials noted Monday they were happy with the response they have been getting from the people of Flint.

“There have been the occasional unusual stories of a guy answering the door naked, but our soldiers and airmen are committed to the mission of getting the water delivered,” said Lt. Col. Bill Humes of the Michigan Army National Guard.

With the mission transitioning from the door-to-door coordinating with residents at water distribution points, Humes said the emphasis is to provide continual water resources to the city’s residents..

Duane Hallock, communications director for the American Red Cross who arrived Monday from Kansas City, Missouri, said the focus of the agency is to support the ongoing operation, which will continue as long as there is a need.

“I’m hearing stories of the gratefulness of those in the city, to help with the effort and generous support from the Community Volunteer Resource Center,” Hallock said. “Today, we have 11 teams out in the community and have no plans to slow that down. The Red Cross has always been here. Our hearts go out to the people. It’s just heartbreaking to know people are going through these hard times.”

Flint water resource locations

These sites are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the following resources: bottled water, water filters, replacement cartridges for water filters, water testing kits pick-up, drop-off location for water testing kits.

Fire Station #1

310 E. 5th

Fire Station #3

1525 Martin Luther King

Fire Station #5

3402 Western

Fire Station #6

716 W. Pierson

Fire Station #8

202 E. Atherton