By ARIELLE BRUMFIELD
DETROIT — In an effort to restore the city’s finances, the city’s water supply was switched from its current provider Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to a city-built pipeline, Karegnondi Water Authority, that draws water from the Flint River.
However, the water, which was 70 percent harder than the previous source, corroded the city’s pipes..
Residents started to notice discoloration, odor and sediment in their drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency tested the water and found dangerous levels of lead and other toxins.
Health problems including Legionnaires disease began plaguing city residents soon after Flint started using the river water. Legionnaires disease, a severe form of pneumonia, can cause severe sickness or even become fatal.
Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield said Tuesday during a town hall meeting, hosted by the Detroit Chapter of NABJ, that not enough is being done for Flint.
“We are literally 40 minutes away from Flint. We’re so close and there are so many grassroots efforts to help Flint, but even with state aid, that is still not enough assistance,” she said. “People don’t realize there is still a water crisis.”
Sheffield is pleased that others beyond Michigan, like Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk are still willing to help finance and find solutions to this issue.
Musk announced some potential solutions that included installing water filters in the homes of residents and using Flint’s local plumbers to start the initiative.
Musk’s contribution will provide not only a cleaner water supply but also provide more work opportunities for Flint residents.
In addition to figures like Musk, many corporations are starting organizations to raise awareness of the issue.
Michigan State University and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have created the Flint Registry to monitor and collect data about those affected by the water crisis.
Residents can pre-enroll for free for the registry, which will track mental health issues, stress levels, skin rashes and the deaths of family members or pets, Communications Director Eboni Stithe said.
“The registry is in the planning stages but will also refer people to the underutilized resources within the city such as healthcare, Medicaid expansion programs and lead abatement programs,” Stithe said.
While the city is still awaiting major infrastructure changes, all hands are on deck with both grassroots and large businesses contributing resources to the city.
But as a result of the crisis being neglected, it will be hard to regain the trust of Flint residents, panelists at the NABJ convention said.
“Efforts to rebuild trust may never be over,” WEYI anchor Mike Woolfolk said during the Flint Water Crisis Panel. “This created a situation that is long-lasting and affects residents and will probably affect their descendants.”