State explains why no bottled water delivery in Flint
Attorneys for state officials explained Thursday why they haven’t acted exactly as ordered by a federal judge who wants bottled water delivered door-to-door in Flint in response to the city’s ongoing crisis.
The state argued Thursday it wasn’t reluctant to comply with U.S. District Judge David Lawson’s order from last month but faced “financial, logistical and practical difficulties” in doing so.
Lawson wants four cases of bottled water per resident be delivered each week if officials can’t prove faucet filters are working to remove harmful lead.
“The state’s dedication to ensuring that the people of Flint have safe drinking water has been — and will continue to be — unwavering,” the attorneys for the state wrote. “To that end, the state continues to visit homes to educate residents, to verify the presence of working water filters, to deliver water door-to-door to those requesting it, and to provide information to all Flint water users.”
In their Thursday filing, the attorneys note the state “continues to deliver water to residents who need it,” visiting between 1,440 and 1,550 homes each week in response to calls from its 211 water response service.
But the state has been fighting Lawson’s order for myriad reasons, including arguing it would be a five-fold increase over current efforts and require another 137 trucks, hiring at least 150 additional people and “a warehouse so large it is not clear if one even exists in the Flint area” at a cost of more than $11 million per month.
On Wednesday, attorneys representing Flint residents filed an emergency motion asking Lawson to force the state of Michigan and the city of Flint to comply with his court order.
Officials with the Natural Resources Defense Council have said the state is ignoring the order requiring immediate action to secure safe drinking water for Flint residents.
But Anna Heaton, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, said Wednesday that teams of state workers and Flint residents who perform filter installation, maintenance and education have visited more than 13,000 homes since the judge’s order was issued in November, and the state continues to ramp up those efforts.
Critics say the state and city have failed to verify filter installation in many homes, have not expanded their limited water delivery program, and had not mailed a public notice required by the court nearly six weeks ago.
Recruitment of Flint residents for these jobs is ongoing, with the goal of 160 outreach workers trained and working in each neighborhood by the end of January, Heaton said.
The state had discussions with six private vendors in an attempt to identify entities that can provide the door-to-door water service to comply with the order, state officials previously reported to Lawson.
On Friday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also refused to halt Lawson’s order while the state and city appealed it.
Residents, meanwhile, have been instructed to use only filtered or bottled water for consumption, and researchers have encouraged those practices until further notice from state or federal officials. No amount of lead is considered safe.