Businesses working around fouled water issues to keep doors open in troubled Flint

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FLINT, Mich. — “We have to be especially careful in the methods we use to prepare our food since we essentially can’t use the city’s water anymore,” said Banana Boat employee Shayla Burnett.

That’s the situation in Flint, Michigan, which was placed under a state of emergency on December 14, 2015 as reaction to the elevated levels of lead in the city’s drinking water.

Local restaurants and the Genesee Health Department are responsible for creating methods the city’s restaurants can use to remain open until a long-term resolution is complete.

“We have water filters on each faucet, if someone orders water with their meal, we only give out bottled water. As well as the regular guidelines we have to follow, we have to be extra cautious because the lead in this water is basically poison,” said Burnett.

According to the state of Michigan’s government website, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has increased the number of food inspectors to 14.

“In response to the emergency and the need to assess lead levels in water being used at Flint Food establishments MDARD has mobilized 14 food inspectors, working full-time to conduct risk-based compliance assessments and verify adherence to current water source requirements,” MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams reported to Michigan’s government website.

“I’ve been in Flint my whole life. I’m not just going to stop eating my favorite foods from my favorite restaurants because of this water crisis,” said Banana Boat customer Rhonda Berkley. “I don’t trust this government because they got this city into this avoidable disaster, but I trust these restaurants to do the right thing by their customers.”

Restaurant employees believes their reputation outweighs the situations and government responsibility.

“We’re a small local restaurant that’s only open during the summer months, but we’ve built relationships and a good reputation with our customers. They feel that they can trust us so we’re still getting a great amount of business,” said Burnett.

The MDARD have conducted complimentary assessments of Flint’s local restaurants to measure the amount lead in each food facilities water and set guidelines and requirements based on the test results.

Head Officer on Genesee County’s Health Department Mark Valacak reported to Michigan.gov, “Safe food preparation and handling is the cornerstone of any food business’s success, and we are dedicated to working cooperatively with MDARD and the food service establishments we regulate to ensure the safety of our food supply.”

“We are working closely with the health department and doing all that we can as an establishment to remain safe to everyone that indulges in everything we serve and we hope the government continues to do the same,” said Burnett.

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