Day 3: Lead in the Water and Citizen Action

Lead’s Lingering Legacy: Rebuilding Public Trust in a Public Utility 

By now, the details of Flint’s water crisis are well known – a cash-strapped city switched to its namesake river for the public water supply and the rest will go down in infamy. But the story is far from over. Even though the city has since switched water sources, the state has distributed filters to local residents and the federal government has given the green light for residents to ditch the bottled water, many Flint residents still don’t trust their taps. And, of course, the damage done by lead exposure can last a lifetime. The group met with city officials, including Flint’s new chief public health advisor, to learn about how the city and the state are working to protect public health, replace lead pipes and also tackle a tougher problem – rebuilding trust in the public water utility. A large part of this approach will be via $4.9 million from the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as Flint was one of eight U.S. cities to receive a Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma (ReCAST) grant.

Citizens in Action: After Fighting to Be Heard, Flint Residents Push for Change

The existence (and extent) of Flint’s lead crisis would never have come to light if it weren’t for organized, determined citizens and a few journalists who covered their concerns. In fact, some have called the coordinated grassroots effort to collect water samples, monitor lead tests and piece together the bigger picture as one of the most remarkable citizen science projects in recent memory. We’ll meet some of the residents who helped initially bring the issue to light, as well as the journalist credited with breaking the story and a public health expert with the Michigan State University department that helped expose the environmental injustice occurring in the Flint water supply. We also got their take on how remediation efforts are going, as well as the citizen-led push from organizations like Flint Rising to get lead-free pipes in the ground.

The group got the chance to get out into one Flint neighborhood to see workers replacing old pipes, and to chat with residents about their concerns:

See the Storify synopsis of this day in Flint.