Flint Water Crisis
Greetings W4W Family,
Many of you have reached out asking for us to respond to the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan. After rigorous analysis of the situation, we’d like to take this opportunity to shed some light on it and formally announce that we will not be responding.
Being that we are a water focused US based NGO, as soon as the news broke about the Flint crisis we started our normal intel-gathering process to build a response plan. That said, since this has happened in a country that, for the most part, has proper infrastructure in place, we naturally wanted to be extra sure that our program was a good fit.
The last thing we want to be is an “ambulance-chaser” type org that jumps at every calamity even if it’s not the right fit. For many years, Waves For Water has been helping families around the world gain abundant access to safe drinking water. Organizations, corporations, UN, US Army, and the private sector, partner with us in every corner of the world where innocents are suffering the daily consequences of water borne disease. When we return from each project, we know that quality-of-life has greatly improved for many thousands of people. And we also return with the heartbreaking awareness that many millions, like the citizens of Flint, are still waiting for water that won't poison them. It just seems to us that everyone, from day one, should enjoy safe water.
Water contaminated with bacteria harms at least a billion people and kills three million every year. This suffering is preventable, and our organization, along with many others, is working to solve this issue for everyone, for all time. Our clean-water programs consist of filtration, well digging & repairing, and rainwater harvesting. The most common is the filter program because most places have access to water; it’s just not clean. But 95% of the time, due to a lack of proper infrastructure, it is bio-contaminants that are the issue in these places. So, the filter we use is specific to that and removes the deadly bacteria and parasites from rural water sources like rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, hand dug boreholes, and wells with hand pumps. After years of implementing it in the field, we feel that this system is the best solution for these types of biological contamination, period.
We would naturally be busy today at ground zero in Flint, but have come to a couple key conclusions that have altered that course.
The type of contamination happening in Flint is heavy metal and chemical based and our filters do not remove heavy metals and/or chemical pollutants from water sources.
Federal support: Unlike most of the places we work around the world, America has proper infrastructure. There is no denying that there are obviously forgotten pockets around the country (like Flint) that would suggest otherwise, but ultimately it’s there. Which means, though it will take some time, this issue will be addressed and fixed, likely at the hands of a federal bailout.
The solution is simple, yet expensive, and the years of neglect and mismanagement by the local government there should take the brunt of the blame (which they are). Basically, all the contaminated pipes in Flint will have to be replaced. This is a very solvable problem and actually standard protocol for any proper municipal water system over time. But it’s up to the local governing body to implement it when the time comes. In fact, there are many cities in the same situation as Flint, but most have been proactive in fixing the problem before, rather than after, the disaster. Lansing, Michigan, for example, chose ten years ago to replace all the lead pipes throughout the city. Today, everyone enjoys safe water.
Now, Flint will have to implement this obvious remedy, and address the long term suffering caused by lack of vision and leadership. This is something we know about, as most places around the world are in the same boat as Flint- people suffering from local leadership and governments who lack basic compassion and visionary leadership.
We have thought long and hard on this one, and being that our filter program won’t work for this type of contamination we are left with only two realistic scenarios.
One, is to explore other types of filtration systems that will remove heavy metal and chemical contaminates, something we have done. We’ve since realized that the scale of this calamity coupled with the sheer (high) costs of these types of filter systems make it next to impossible for an Org our size to make real impact.
Two, like so many Org’s are doing as we speak, is to send large amounts of bottled water to the citizens of Flint as a supplemental solution until the government finally replaces the pipes. But again, for an organization of our capacity, sending palates of bottled water is not really within the scope of what we do and would ultimately not be the best use of our time and resources.
We hope this has helped to shed some light on the Flint crisis and our position in it. We will continue to advocate for this cause and be a resource for information should any of you want to know more.
Lastly, based on our research, if you want to send financial support towards this, the Org we feel is doing some of the best work there is a local group called Community Foundation of Greater Flint. They have created the Flint Child Health and Development Fund to ensure that children there are afforded the resources and interventions to overcome the population-wide exposure to lead. For more info: https://www.cfgf.org/cfgf/GoodWork/FlintArea/Water...
Waves For Water