Flint, Michigan, still doesn’t have clean water. In fact, it’s been 1,154 days since water ran clear rather than brown; it’s contaminated and smells faintly of rotten eggs. That’s more than three years since most residents have been able to take showers, drink from the faucet, or safely water their plants without the help of a filter or bottled water.
On April 14, 2014, Flint officials made the decision to switch the city’s water source to the Flint River in order to save money. The pollution from the river ended up corroding the pipes and, in turn, poisoning the water with lead and other hazardous chemicals. It wasn’t until September of 2015, though, that the state acknowledged there was a problem, despite continuous complaints from residents. In fact, it took investigations from the ACLU, Virginia Tech, and reports from pediatrician Dr. Moana Hanna-Attisha, who found record levels of lead in her patients’ blood, for anyone to really start paying attention. It got so bad that former President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in January of last year (note: nearly two years after residents had already been exposed to lead).
It’s been an uphill battle for the majority black city since. The mayor at the time, Dayne Walling—one of the officials who insisted that the water was safe, even going so far as to drink it on television—has since been replaced by Karen Weaver. The city’s switched their water back to being sourced from Detroit and the eroding pipes are set to be fixed, but the process is estimated to take at least three years.
While there was a time when it seemed like everyone was hyper-aware of what was going in Flint (back in 2016 when Obama visited and #JusticeForFlint, the benefit event that included guests like Jesse Williams, Janelle Monae, and Ava DuVernay, was broadcast during the Academy Awards ), the media has, for the most part, moved on from this story. There are other things to cover, other horrific things to report on. But Flint still doesn’t have clean water.
So while Flint hasn’t completely left the news cycle—just a couple of weeks ago five Michigan officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the water crisis—it can still be hard to gauge what needs to be done and who can help. To get a better sense of exactly this, we spoke with five activists, who have long been doing their part to spread awareness.
Read ahead for what they have to say.