While Michigan Supreme Court gives justice to city, Flint residents still drinking from water bottles

While the Michigan Supreme Court is getting more involved in Flint water criminal cases, many residents still rely on bottled water to get by. How eight years later residents are still struggling when it comes to drinking clean water from their faucets.

FLINT, Mich. – I can still remember first hearing some rumblings about problems with the water in Flint. People were complaining it smelled and was brown.

We thought, “Let’s roll up there one day and see what’s happening.”

It was a cold January day. The snow was flying, and it was freezing. When I pulled off I-475 and made my way into downtown Flint, I was stunned.

I saw huge lines of men, women and children all standing outside the local firehouse, and later by the community center. They were outside in the freezing weather, just waiting for a case of water.

One case.

That’s all that was allowed. The stores were all sold out, and for many, buying water was a luxury.

Many of these people are poor or on fixed incomes. We followed a family home: mom, dad and three kids were all getting on the bus with their one case.

They would use this water for cooking and bathing. This was what was happening in Flint, and no one seemed to care.

How was this happening in America? In our state. I was outraged.

We aired our reports that day, and news quickly traveled to Lansing that more media were coming into the city. The governor called a press conference in Flint to tell us what we already knew. Flint was dealing with a big problem, but even after admitting something was wrong, little was being done to help.

Within days, the national media descended on Flint. There were cameras everywhere. Flint was leading newscasts across the country. Here’s why that is good: People stepped up to help in a big way, and politicians felt the heat to make this right. It was heartbreaking.

I covered a lead testing event one day. This required a blood draw. I remember seeing little kids sobbing. They were scared, and you could see the fear in their parents’ faces. How was this happening?

I’ve been to Flint many, many times during the last eight years, but my trip last week felt different. People feel abandoned. Yes, a settlement is done. Yes, some now face criminal charges. But where is the real help for Flint?

Many still don’t drink the water. The days of Trump, Clinton and Cher rolling into town are over. The water that was once given out every day at every fire station is now hard to find.

Yes, I know there are many still on the ground doing amazing work (Dr. Mona is a savior), but I encourage you to keep Flint in your mind.

I often think of that family I saw hopping the bus. How are their kids? Did their pipes get changed? Are they OK?

I know for sure that the people of Flint deserve better.

17, 280 bottles of Cocoa water is being sent to Flint, Michigan to help with their lead contaminated water situation. The ten pallets of 20 ounce bottles are at the City of Cocoa Utilities, and will soon be shipped north. TIM SHORTT/FLORIDA TODAY

With that, it was eight years ago the city of Flint switched to a new water source to help with the known Flint water crisis. Well, that switch proved to be deadly.

Over the years, Flint’s residents have seen many ups and downs. Now, other cities in Michigan are fighting the same battles.

While the hype of the crisis has faded, people who live in Flint rely on bottled water. Flint resident Denise Miller has multiple cases in her kitchen. Whether it’s tea or a meal on the stove, the water from her faucet is still off-limits to her household.

“I just don’t trust it. I don’t believe it’s safe and I never will,” Miller said.

Miller’s neighbor, Sabrina Richmond, lives a few doors down.

Richmond is a proud grandmother who is thankful the water problems didn’t drastically affect her family’s health. But she claims she is still scared of the water and refuses to drink it.

“We never drink the water,” the grandmother said. They rely on bottled water only. “They don’t give it out anymore. We have to buy it.”

These women, among others, rely on water bottles, but that can be a problem. The big water donation effort is pretty much dried up. The big push to get necessities at their doors has become obsolete.

Read more: Michigan Supreme Court adds 2nd Flint water case to docket

Karen Weaver, former Flint mayor, was in office during the height of the water crisis. The switch happened eight years ago, and the consequences were deadly.

“The people are still struggling, and I want people to know this isn’t a problem that got fixed. It’s still ongoing,” said said.

While many will most likely get money from the multi-million-dollar settlement, residents still worry about the water quality.

To learn more, watch Hank’s full report in the video player above.

Click here to learn how to apply for water lead-filtration system, find lead testing resources in Michigan


Looking to show your support for Flint? Check out the organizations still making a difference:


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About the Authors:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.

Elizabeth Washington is a Digital Producer and has been with Local 4 News since April 2022.