The Flint Infrastructure Crisis: Two dinners with Flint Residents

On December 15 Flintwaterstudy had two memorable dinners with Flint residents.

The first was with three members of the original team that helped expose the Flint water crisis in 2014-2015 including “Fighting” Tony Palladeno Jr. and his partner Leah, and Melissa Mays (co-founder of Wateryoufighting4). We first met Tony when residents were getting arrested for complaining about water, and of course, we met Melissa on our original Flint visit when we tested for disinfection by-products, chlorine and bacteria in Flint water heaters and cold water taps.

Ever since early 2016, these residents have been harsh critics of the EPA, State of MI, Dr. Edwards and Flintwaterstudy – they believe the water in Flint is getting worse with each passing day. To say we had a frank exchange about these and other issues would be an understatement (our sincere apologies to El Potrero staff and customers). Nonetheless, it was good seeing them again.

Like many Flint residents, Tony and Leah are having a tough time financially, because their property investments in Flint imploded – at least partly as a result of the Flint water crisis. Imagine a scenario in which you have invested your life savings in a community in Flint, and it evaporates as many people flee a city in crisis.  On top of that consider the health and stress issues associated with the water from at least 2014-2015 and residual lack of trust. There does not seem to be any legal recourse to recover their lost investment either.  In any case, while we may never agree on anything again when it comes to Flint water quality, these residents are truly amongst the original heroes of the Flint crisis. The entire country owes Flint residents a debt of gratitude for helping to expose national problems on lead in water and decaying infrastructure.

We then had a nice dinner organized by James Milton at Tia Helitas.  James took the class on the Flint Water Crisis at UM-Flint and had a lot of great questions about infrastructure and water quality.  His mom Lucille Milton, Dave Montgomery (Urban News), Chris Frye and Kay Doerr also attended. We were joined by Keri Webber and LeeAnne Walters (who was recovering from back surgery). The problems of high water rates, crazy water bills, and shut-offs were a main topic of discussion.

There is still a lot of work to be done in Flint. We can’t solve all of these problems, but with the $170 million in Federal funding, hopefully, we can make a dent in them.

Figure 1. James, Lucille, Chris, Kay, Dave, and Marc

Primary Author: Dr. Marc Edwards

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