A city that depends on drinking water from a rusty water system to prevent corrosion and prevent the spread of disease is now seeing a surge in water-borne illnesses linked to the problem.
City officials say they’ve seen an uptick in waterborne illnesses related to the drinking water problem and that the city is not yet at the point where they believe a solution to the water-quality crisis is required.
“We are just getting the message from the city of Flint that they need to come up with a solution,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver told CBC News in an interview.
“This is not a city that has the resources to put out water that is safe and reliable.”
The city’s water is contaminated by lead and other pollutants, and in some cases, by lead pipes and valves.
The Flint River was poisoned in 2015 when a toxic chemical used in Flint’s water treatment system was switched from Lake Huron to Lake Huronia.
Since then, the city has had to rely on a rusty system that has been leaking lead into the drinking-water system for years.
The city has installed thousands of lead pipes across the city, many of them old, to replace those that were damaged or cracked by corrosion.
Lead pipes, like those in the Flint River, can leak into water and can contaminate drinking water.
The city says it is still testing more than 2,000 of those pipes, and it is working to replace about 600 of them.
At the same time, the corrosion has spread to other pipes, as well.
“The problem has gotten worse.
It has gotten much worse,” Weaver said.
“There are thousands of them in the city and the water is not safe.
It’s not safe.”
Water bills have gone up $5.85 a month, or $5,600 a year, according to the City of Flint.
The rate for an average family of four was $1,914.80 in August, up from $1.942 in April.
That has a ripple effect on the city’s economy.
The Flint Chamber of Commerce expects the cost of doing business in the coming year to rise by nearly $20 million.
“It’s really bad for business,” said Steve Fries, executive director of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of the city.
“It’s a huge cost to have that water in the community.”
The state is paying the city more than $2.6 million a month to replace the lead pipes.
It also pays about $3 million a year for a water distribution system that delivers water to more than 4,000 customers.
Fry said that is just a fraction of the money the city needs to pay.
“At this point, it’s just not going to be able to cover it,” he said.
But some Flint residents say the city hasn’t done enough.
“There’s been no response from the state to help us,” said Mike White, president of the Flint Community Association.
“They’ve done nothing to help people and not helped them.”
The Flint City Council will consider a resolution next week asking the city to begin phasing out the old system and replacing it with one that is more efficient and less polluting.
City Councilwoman Mary White said she will not support a resolution on the issue unless there is a clear plan from the governor to help the city get rid of lead.
“What we’ve seen over the last few months is that the governor has been completely silent and has not provided any information about how we are going to get rid to this,” she said.
“People have been waiting for the governor and the governor’s office to make that announcement.
We have been getting no information from them.”
Follow John Diefenbaker on Twitter: @DiefenBaker