Everytime someone hears I am from Flint, one of the first questions I am asked is about our water. The news of this manmade crisis has spread across the nation, and for a moment all eyes turned towards the Vehicle City of old. So, let me tell you about this water crisis from down on the front lines.
We moved into the city right when the state finally admitted there was something wrong. Until that point, there had been denial from every level of the local and state government. I don’t think this was willful hatred of the poor, but rather tragic incompetence. When we moved in, Dr. Mona had just declared her findings. So we as a family never drank the water. When we first moved in, it stank something fierce. But a good friend came over and helped me tear out all the lead lines into the house and install pex.
If we had moved in 3 months earlier, I would have believed the government and drunk the water. My 3 and 5 year old would have followed suit. There is an anger in this city at was happened. And I understand it. If my children had been exposed to poisonous levels of lead, if I had to spend the rest of their lives watching out for lead poisoning, not knowing what was “normal” or not, I would have a rage within me that politeness would not cover. As is, my children are tested for lead in their blood every 3 months. So far, their levels are well within safe ranges. But there are others that did drink. There are many moms and dads here who don’t even know what effect this is going to have long term. I see their anger, and I understand.
Now, even with the old piping out, we don’t drink the water. Even though we got a good lead report after putting in a basic filter at our water source, we don’t drink the water. Why? Cause the reports change. Our neighbor has a setup similar to our own. And for months their reports have come back in the clear. But one day it came back with toxic levels of lead. The reason; a crew had been doing work at the end of our road. And whatever they were doing probably knocked stuff loose in the lines. The health of our children is not something I am going to gamble with. The damage done to Flint’s infrastructure is not fixed, is not trustworthy, and is not fully understood. So every week we fill up gallon jugs of water outside the city. I keep plenty of bottled water on hand, so every guest that comes over knows the water I give them is safe to imbibe.
As for bathing, we placed a filter at the water entry to our home. That gives us some measure of confidence. All over the city, I hear testimonies of rashes and other skin related reactions to the water. There are no official reports yet of a found correlation between the water and these claims. But we watch. The kids don’t take long baths. We don’t take long showers. Cause there is too much we don’t know.
As for the future… we see no end in sight for the current status quo. The city wants to dig up all the feeder pipes and replace the entire infrastructure. But that is a long and expensive job that hasn’t even really started. But what is happening is the spotlight on the city has moved. The news crews have all left. Air Force One took off and is not coming back. The generous donations of water have slowed to a crawl. And I knew it would. There was so much right when the story broke, and now the country has moved on. Some water distribution centers have begun to close their doors. There is water to be gotten if you have a vehicle and are available at the posted pick up times. Our church, Flint City Church, are committed to bringing water to the homes of people in our neighborhoods that are without transport or means. We are committed to doing this almost every week. The elderly. The infirm. The poor. We are here in this season. And we are going to give people water to drink. And maybe, as they drink clean water from bottles, they may also drink deeply that living water that changes the world.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”
For more on the work here in Flint, visit flintcitychurch.com.