Flint activists mark water switch anniversary

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Flint — Lee-Anne Walters, the local activist and early voice of protesters in the city’s water crisis, stood in front of City Hall on Monday to mark the two-year anniversary of the city’s water system switch to the corrosive Flint River.

That April 25, 2014, switch is now known for causing lead to leach from the city’s pipes into its water supply, poisoning residents.

Walters was also there Monday to announce a nonprofit community development organization, C Do (Community Development Organization of Flint).

“Everything we say and we do, we do with transparency,” she said. “We’re going to be real people helping real people in crisis caused by environmental injustices.”

Walters said the group was formed because of a “major need for transparency and information regarding the recovery efforts” of the water crisis.

Walters said she is done waiting on state and federal officials to respond to help residents.

“We’re just trying to be helpful, and the fact that people are losing their homes or going bankrupt because they are not receiving financial support for the medical (treatments),” Walters said. “That’s why this is important to all of us.”

Walters noticed symptoms such as hair loss, rashes and slowed growth in her son in July 2014 and came to suspect the water coming out of the taps in her home. She contacted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in March 2015 after tests showed elevated levels of lead in her home drinking water.

Walters, acting president of its board of trustees, also announced the start of national fundraising campaign for the nonprofit.

“In the coming weeks, we will try and launch behavioral health services to support residents not covered under the federal Medicare expansion plan,” she said.

Walters noted the group’s website, www.cdoflint.org, will have extensive documentation of the organization’s spending.

Arthur Woodson, an activist and vice president of the board, said a program the group is launching immediately is a peer-to-peer family assistance email hotline “with any questions or concerns regarding the Flint water crisis and recovery.”

All emails sent to information@cdoflint.org will be answered within 72 hours, Woodson said.

“This is to ensure all residents are informed about the resources available,” he said.

Woodson said the organization will document the work of other organizations in the city “to encourage transparency.”

An advisory board is under formation which includes Marc Edwards, leader of the Flint Water Study, and Charles P. Lunsford Professor at Virginia Techs’ Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Board members present alongside Walters included Woodson, Keri Webber and Timothy Grey.

Grey, an educator, board member and resident, said his biggest concern is on the “generational affects of the water problem” but the group is focused on “helping the whole community.”

Grey said he got involved with the group because the city of Flint is still struggling to recover from the crisis.

“We’re in the midst of it,” he said. “One of the main reasons this group was formed was because of the glacial flow and pace of bureaucracy and sometimes indifference.”