Flint Residents Not Convinced By New Report That Says Water is Safer

Flint

A new report indicates that the water system in Flint, Michigan, no longer contains excess levels of lead that surpass federal limits. However, Flint’s residents, who have been affected by lead poisoning in their drinking water, say the man-made water crisis is nowhere near resolved.

The deadly water fiasco began in 2014 after an official appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder switched the community’s water supply source to the Flint River. As a result, lead-contaminated water was streamed into the homes of thousands of Flint residents for months. The water also corroded Flint’s pipes. Following the public health crisis, a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak linked to the water killed a dozen people.

On Tuesday, state government officials released a letter stating that the elevated level of lead has been contained.

Per The Associated Press:

The 90th percentile of lead concentrations in Flint was 12 parts per billion from July through December, below the “action level” of 15 ppb, according to a letter from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to Flint’s mayor. It was 20 ppb in the prior six-month period.

Based on the sample of 368 residential sites, Flint’s lead levels are again comparable to other similarly sized U.S. cities with older infrastructure, state officials said.

“This is good news and the result of many partners on the local, county, state and federal levels working together to restore the water quality in the City of Flint,” said the department’s director, Heidi Grether, in a statement. “The Flint water system is one of the most monitored systems in the country for lead and copper, and that commitment will remain to ensure residents continue to have access to clean water.”

Gov. Snyder also released a statement praising the report.

“The remarkable improvement in water quality over the past year is a testament to all levels of government working together and the resilient people of Flint helping us help them through participation in the flushing programs,” it reads.

Despite the “good news,” community residents say it’s way too early to celebrate, especially since officials are advising residents to only consume filtered or bottled water until new water pipes are replaced in the city.

Melissa Mays, a community advocate with Flint Rising, told The AP that the new report “means nothing. There’s still lead in the system.”

She went on to argue that, “Numbers always fluctuate and the department only tested one percent of homes in one period of time in Flint. These reports are premature and it gives residents and everyone else a false sense of security that things are getting better when they are not,” she told NBC News.

Other residents, like 49-year-old disabled veteran Arthur Woodson, say the water is “still not safe.”

Likewise, resident and mother Tonya Blooming questioned the government’s progress. “If it’s been years and I still can’t drink or use the water, then what progress is that?” she asked. “Lead numbers change week to week, and I have a feeling there will be another report later on that will negate this one. It’s happened to me before.”

“Reports like this butter people up so it looks like things are all great, but is really just laying the groundwork to exit without actually doing anything,” added Flint resident Donald Harbin.

On Wednesday, Detroit rapper Big Sean announced on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah that his foundation raised almost $100,000 to help victims in Flint. He also expressed his own personal views on the public health crisis and revealed that his mother was affected by the lead poisoning.

“It’s not even close to being over,” he said. “That situation wasn’t a natural disaster. It’s something that should’ve been prevented and could’ve been prevented, so it’s just disgusting to think about the damages that these families and even kids have to go through with the lead poisoning.”

 

 


Selena HillSelena Hill is the Associate Digital Editor at Black Enterprise and the founder of Let Your Voice Be Heard! Radio. You can hear her and her team talk millennial politics and social issues every Sunday at 11 a.m. ET.

Learn more about the water crisis by listening to her 2016 radio interview with Flint activist Nayyirah Shariff, Coordinator with the Flint Democracy Defense League, below.

 



Google Steps Up for Flint

Google announced it will award $250,000 in grant money to various efforts to help the water crisis situation in Flint, Michigan.

The grants will be delivered via Google’s foundation arm—Google.org.

The University of Michigan is receiving $150,000 to create a comprehensive data platform to help government and community leaders make decisions related to the water crisis and also to provide critical information to citizens.

Student researchers under the guidance of a Mark Allison, a computer science professor, will develop a mobile website and app that performs data visualization. The two will allow Flint citizens to request services such as reporting water concerns and requesting water- testing kits.

$100,000 is going to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint for its Flint Child Health & Development Fund. The foundation is working on short- and long-term positive outcomes for Flint children who were exposed to elevated levels of lead. The fund was created to help newborns to children up to 6 years old—this group is most vulnerable to the detriments of lead exposure.

The Black Googler Network, which is one of Google’s largest employee resource groups with 12 branches worldwide, is also working with the foundation on the project and will help raise funds and provide support.

Local Flint area Googlers, have also raised $30,000 for response efforts in Flint and are continuing matching campaigns.

In February, Google awarded $3 million in grants for social justice causes including San Francisco’s My Brother and Sister’s Keeper (MBSK) program; Oakland’s Roses in Concrete Community School; the tech-enabled college success startup, Beyond12; and the national Equal Justice Initiative, headed up by Bryan Stevenson.

Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was one of the first recipients of Google.org’s new giving cause and received a $500,000 grant for her activism efforts.

On World Water Day, Here are Three U.S. Cities Fighting for Freshwater

(Image: www.flickr.com)

Founded in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, World Water Day is an annual event designed to call attention to the importance of accessible freshwater and highlight the activism surrounding this issue.

[Related: Activist Van Jones Joins Artists For Bus Tour Leading Crisis Response In Flint]

The citizens of Flint, Michigan, joined the 1.8 billion people around the world who are unable to access freshwater when their story made national headlines. Flint exposed the blatant disregard of the water’s lead levels by city and state officials, while exposing how access to clean water has become startlingly jeopardized. In light of World Water Day, here are three more U.S. cities struggling to ensure accessibility to fresh drinking water.

Jackson, Mississippi 

In late February 2016, the City of Jackson and the Mississippi State Health Department confirmed that lead had been found in the city’s water and issued a warning to residents, particularly pregnant women and children.

The unsettlingly high levels of lead were first noticed in June 2015, and went unreported until January 2016. Although 22% of homes tested in June  surpassed the federal “action” lead level (15 parts per billion), city officials maintain this does not violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Jackson officials claim that the water is not “unsafe” to drink, but still advises pregnant women and children to stick with bottled or filtered water.

Newark, New Jersey

On March 9, the Newark school district and the state Department of Environmental Protections reported higher-than-normal levels of lead, affecting around 17,000 students.

Data released by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection showed that during the 2014-2015 school term, 72% of school buildings had lead levels above the EPA’s acceptable standards.

Claiming that the school systems helped cover up the issue, the Newark Teachers Union released photos of expired water filters in Newark schools that were not among the 30 that tested positive for high lead levels. Newark Schools Superintendent, Chris Cerf, called the claims “irresponsible.” The Teachers Union has called for his resignation.

Philadelphia

During a joint hearing involving city council members and the Philadelphia Water Department on March 21, Philadelphia’s water commissioner Debra McCary shocked advocates when she stated that Philadelphia’s water is lead free.”

The meeting was called after The Guardian reported that scientists considered Philadelphia’s water testing methods as “worse than Flint.

Although 2014 tests reported one home to have lead levels as high as 122 parts per billion, more than eight times the federal limit, the city’s faulty test procedures mean that the issue could actually be far worse.

On World Water Day, Here are Three U.S. Cities Fighting for Freshwater

(Image: www.flickr.com)

Founded in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, World Water Day is an annual event designed to call attention to the importance of accessible freshwater and highlight the activism surrounding this issue.

[Related: Activist Van Jones Joins Artists For Bus Tour Leading Crisis Response In Flint]

The citizens of Flint, Michigan, joined the 1.8 billion people around the world who are unable to access freshwater when their story made national headlines. Flint exposed the blatant disregard of the water’s lead levels by city and state officials, while exposing how access to clean water has become startlingly jeopardized. In light of World Water Day, here are three more U.S. cities struggling to ensure accessibility to fresh drinking water.

Jackson, Mississippi 

In late February 2016, the City of Jackson and the Mississippi State Health Department confirmed that lead had been found in the city’s water and issued a warning to residents, particularly pregnant women and children.

The unsettlingly high levels of lead were first noticed in June 2015, and went unreported until January 2016. Although 22% of homes tested in June  surpassed the federal “action” lead level (15 parts per billion), city officials maintain this does not violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Jackson officials claim that the water is not “unsafe” to drink, but still advises pregnant women and children to stick with bottled or filtered water.

Newark, New Jersey

On March 9, the Newark school district and the state Department of Environmental Protections reported higher-than-normal levels of lead, affecting around 17,000 students.

Data released by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection showed that during the 2014-2015 school term, 72% of school buildings had lead levels above the EPA’s acceptable standards.

Claiming that the school systems helped cover up the issue, the Newark Teachers Union released photos of expired water filters in Newark schools that were not among the 30 that tested positive for high lead levels. Newark Schools Superintendent, Chris Cerf, called the claims “irresponsible.” The Teachers Union has called for his resignation.

Philadelphia

During a joint hearing involving city council members and the Philadelphia Water Department on March 21, Philadelphia’s water commissioner Debra McCary shocked advocates when she stated that Philadelphia’s water is lead free.”

The meeting was called after The Guardian reported that scientists considered Philadelphia’s water testing methods as “worse than Flint.

Although 2014 tests reported one home to have lead levels as high as 122 parts per billion, more than eight times the federal limit, the city’s faulty test procedures mean that the issue could actually be far worse.

Flint Sees Record-Breaking Voter Turnout, Polls to Run Out of Ballots

(Image: Wikipedia.org)

On Tuesday night, Flint residents came out in droves to cast their votes for the Michigan primary.

By 4 p.m., NBC 25 reported that at least three Flint precincts had run out of ballots and were forced to either turn voters away, or have them wait until more ballots could be retrieved.

[Related: Ryan Coogler and Jesse Williams Talk Using Star Power to Bring #JusticeForFlint]

City of Flint Clerk, Inez Brown, told MLive.com that she had never seen such high turnout in her 20 years as a city clerk.

“It’s an unprecedented high turnout for a closed primary presidential election for the city of Flint,” Brown said.

City officials pointed to the city’s ongoing water crisis as cause for the drastic uptick in ballots cast.

County Clerk, Justin Gleason, had expected long lines at the ballot. “The city of Flint has been in the national news for five months. People want to be heard. They are tired, and the city’s water crisis is one reason they are showing up to vote,” Gleason said.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver had a similar message. “Our voices were not heard, and now people are becoming more involved. I’m glad people are feeling empowered and encouraged to come out [and] vote.”

Activist Van Jones Joins Artists For Bus Tour Leading Crisis Response In Flint

Head shot of Van Jones

Former White House Special Advisor and #YesWeCode founder Van Jones

The morning after the Democratic Presidential Debate will draw the nation’s attention to Flint, Michigan. Green For All will assemble a diverse group of activists and artists to join the Support For Flint’s Future Bus Tour. The tour will begin on Monday, March 7 at 9 a.m. EST, making several site visits across Flint to call attention, bear witness and share solutions for the ongoing Flint Water Crisis.

More than 100,000 residents of Flint have been exposed to toxic levels of lead in their drinking water for more than two years. As local, state and federal officials have mobilized to provide short-term assistance to address the water crisis, local residents have been saddled with addressing the immeasurable long-term damage. As a disproportionately poor community of color with one of the nation’s highest poverty rates, residents have been calling for the resources and expertise to implement sustainable solutions for their city’s long-term health.

Author, activist and founder of Green For All, Van Jones, will join a group of participants of the Support For Flint’s Future Bus Tour that include actor and founder of Water Defense Mark Ruffalo; environmental justice activist and Director of Green For All Vien Truong; and businessman, philanthropist and founder of NextGen Climate Tom Steyer. The tour will touch on three interrelated issues at the heart of the crisis: children; environment; and jobs and economy. This will include conversations with the individuals and organizations that have been on the forefront, such as a visit to Hurley Medical Center with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who first sounded the alarm to dangerously high lead levels in local children and founded FlintKids.org.

“It goes against the very nature of American democracy to subject citizens to the mistreatment that the residents of Flint have borne the brunt of for years,” noted Jones, former green jobs advisor to President Obama and founder of Green For All. “Situations like Flint don’t develop overnight; they are the result of long-standing neglect from all parts of our society.”

[Related: 5 Ways You Can Help The Water Crisis In Flint, Michigan]

“The United Nations has already declared access to clean water indispensable for leading a life in human dignity, but the problems in Flint go far beyond a poisoned water supply,” Ruffalo said in a statement. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to bear witness to the damage done in Flint and communities like it from environmental racism. This means addressing the underlying issues that allowed for the Flint Water Crisis to take place in the first place, and empowering the groups trying to build a long-term future for their city.”

“The fight for clean, safe water in Flint and communities across the country is a fight for social justice,” Steyer continued. “Communities of color too often are the most vulnerable to the impacts of polluted air and water, and our leaders have a moral obligation to protect our communities and make sure this never happens again.”

Ryan Coogler and Jesse Williams Talk Using Star Power to Bring #JusticeForFlint

Ryan and Jesse

Image: File

While some of black Hollywood continues to discuss plans of an Oscars boycott, a few notable celebrities are using their star power to give back in a major way.

Filmmakers Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, actor/activist Jesse Williams and many others are opting out of the star-studded night to offer their assistance to the residents of Flint, Michigan. With a water crisis that has made headline news and a history of government oppression, the disaster in Flint is one that has been labeled by many as a racial genocide, with 60% of its population being black.

[RELATED: 5 Ways You Can Help the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan]

“It’s a community that has suffered for quite a while, meanwhile local officials have looked anywhere but to them,” said Williams in a press teleconference Thursday. “With Blackout, we are giving the community a platform. We want to touch the mic to the community and let them offer their own story, but also offer some release.”

The free event, known as #JusticeForFlint, is put on by Blackout for Human Rights, which is a group of filmmakers, artists, activists and concerned citizens devoting their resources to address human rights violations in the U.S.

“I got started in the film industry with Fruitvale Station, which reflects this directly,” said Coogler. “We have young men and women having human rights violated by people who are supposed to be paid to protect them.”

Last month, Coogler, who is a founding member of Blackout, held an #MLKNow event in NYC honoring and connecting the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights icons with today’s leaders in an effort to keep the conversation going around social justice. From that event, Coogler says the idea for Flint came about. Although #JusticeForFlint will take place on the same night as the Oscars, the 29-year-old filmmaker makes it clear that this has nothing to do with the Oscars controversy.

“It’s not about the Oscars,” says Coogler. “We won’t be asking questions about Oscars. We just want people to come out and show support for Flint.”

With toxic levels of lead being found in Flint’s water, leading to the possibility of long-term neurological damage in children, Coogler says any donations to #JusticeForFlint will go towards the medical needs of children who are affected.

To help out Flint residents, text “justice” to 83224 and be sure to catch the live stream of Sunday night’s event at 5 p.m. EST on Revolt TV.

In the News: Flint, Michigan

There has been a lot of recent news surrounding the Flint Water Crisis in Detroit, Michigan. Early last year, the Environmental Protection Agency was made aware of the toxic levels of lead that had leaked into the water after Flint made the Flint River its primary source of water due to a financial state of emergency, but they made no effort to make the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality treat the water.

This led to poisoning, sickness, and the possibility of long-term neurological damage in children. African Americans make up a whopping 56.6% of the city’s population. The crisis is now being referred to by many people as both genocide and environmental racism, and several communities and leaders are calling on Governor Rick Snyder to be arrested.

Here are three recent updates on Flint:

1. Hillary Clinton has made Environmental Racism a Campaign Issue
At the Democratic presidential debate on Jan. 17, Hillary Clinton responded, “the Flint Water Crisis” when asked what issue the candidates felt had been neglected during the debate. The following day, on Martin Luther King. Jr. Day, she continued to voice her anger. At an event in South Carolina, Clinton stated, “We would be outraged if this happened to white kids, and we should be outraged that it’s happening right now to black kids.” While the media have debated whether or not Clinton is trying to capitalize on a political moment or rather to help the community to fight their battle and raise awareness to the issue, her outrage has sparked much-needed attention on Flint.

[Related: 5 Ways You Can Help the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan]

2. Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairman Urges House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Chairman to Have Governor Rick Snyder Testify During Upcoming Hearing.
On Jan. 28, CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield sent a letter to the oversight and government reform chairman, urging him to call upon Michigan’s Governor, Rick Snyder, to testify during the latest court hearing. The letter held, “The harm experienced by the residents of Flint is irreversible and multi-generational. The governor has admitted harm, numerous missteps, and seemingly has a blatant disregard for the care of the citizens of Flint. Governor Snyder has been a central figure in the decision-making process that led to the water crisis and, to that end, should be invited to testify before the Committee.” Earlier in January, the CBC also sent President Obama a letter, asking for a thorough investigation of all entities that had oversight in the Flint water crisis, in addition to urging for immediate funding to assist the city in its recovery.

3. National Society of Black Engineers urges officials to make things right in Flint.
Neville Green, the national chair of the National Society of Black Engineers, holds that cultural responsibility is extremely important, and that the elected officials in Flint, Mich., have failed the community, as well as threatening their safety. Who did this impact the most? Its youth. the NSBE is actively engaging in donations, educating the community on water safety, and coming up with new solutions with engineers. The NSBE is challenging all civil leaders, black organizations, and student movements to join in the support of the movement, removing the dangerous substances and restoring the community’s basic right of access to clean water.