Kalamazoo residents question water safety in light of Flint water crisis

Posted at 11:18 PM, Feb 16, 2016

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- As the Flint water crisis continues to gain national attention, those in Kalamazoo are asking city officials if their water is safe to drink.

On Tuesday, the Kalamazoo community met to talk about their water and what's in it. FOX 17 attended the meeting, which was organized by the Metropolitan Kalamazoo branch of the NAACP at the Galilee Baptist Church in Kalamazoo. Despite lasting for more than an hour, some residents felt that their questions weren't answered.

"I’m not totally sold on what I heard tonight about the lead and what’s going on with it, but this is a start," said Bill Lindsey, a Kalamazoo resident.

"I had lead pipes in my basement, never thought what that really meant," said Charles Warfield, president of the Kalamazoo NAACP branch. "At least we’re going to bring some awareness to the community."

Approximately 50 people attended Tuesday's meeting. City officials and the Kalamazoo County Health Department were in attendance as well.

We were told the point of the meeting was to inform those living in Kalamazoo of the importance of lead education, including details on it and it's potential to harm people: particularly kids.

"We’re about the business, about waking up our community, working with the community, with the county, working with the city to make sure our children and us aren’t effected by contaminated water," Warfield said.

City officials say there are currently 6,000 lead service lines running through Kalamazoo, but according to managing director of Kalamazoo Public Services Sue Fuone, the water in Kalamazoo is safe to drink.

"We’ve been adding chemicals since 1956, we do that continuously," said Foune.

In 2014, 3 out of 59 locations tested in Kalamazoo came back above the federal limit for lead in pipes, which is 15 parts per billion. Officials say that those locations were improperly tested.

"One was a utility sink in the basement, one was an outside post, and the other location was an inside tap [that had been abandoned]," Foune said.

Foune said that the city replaces lead service lines during construction, if a lead line breaks or the line is tested and the results show unsafe levels of lead. But some people living in Kalamazoo weren't buying it.

"I do believe they’re doing the best they can, but I’m not totally convinced tonight that everything that could be done is being done," said Lindsey.

Doctors at the meeting say, "there’s no such thing as a safe level of lead."

"There is an answer and it’s going to cost money," Lindsey said.

Lead can be found in places other than pipelines, such as chipping paint or even toys; both of which pose dangers to youngsters.

"We need our kids to be as healthy as possible; we don’t want water or lead or anything else to get in their way," said Warfield.

During the meeting, doctors also mentioned nutrition and how it can play a key role in fighting lead. Calcium, Iron, and Vitamin C all work to block the absorption of lead in kids.

FOX 17 was told the lead levels from Kalamazoo Public Schools were tested, but the city is still waiting on those results, which should be back next week.