News / USA

    Flint Residents Struggle to Cope with Ongoing Water Crisis

    Flint Residents Struggle to Cope with Ongoing Water Crisisi
    X
    February 26, 2016 9:45 PM
    As government officials scramble for solutions, the ongoing concern about safe drinking water in the city of Flint, Michigan, is taking a toll on those who live there. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports, volunteers continue to distribute bottled water and filters to those who have been dealing with the problem for months.

    In a tree-lined neighborhood in Flint, Michigan, the arrival of the American Red Cross disaster truck is a welcome sign of relief outside of Terence Johnson's brown brick home.

    Now Johnson, who works a construction job, might finally be able to take a bath — thanks to the supplies on the truck.

    "Right now it's not safe to shower," he said. "It's not safe to bathe unless you use bottled water."

    Johnson believes it isn't safe because, among other concerns, Flint's water has high levels of lead.

    Johnson says he won't be the first one to wash with the bottled water he gets from the Red Cross truck. But he says he makes sure the elderly citizens who live near him get water before he uses what's left to clean himself up.

    Calling it a proper "bath," however, is a stretch.

    American Red Cross disaster trucks deliver bottled water to residents of Flint, Michigan, in February 2016. (K. Farabaugh/VOA)
    American Red Cross disaster trucks deliver bottled water to residents of Flint, Michigan, in February 2016. (K. Farabaugh/VOA)

    "You're taking bottled water, and you're heating it in the microwave, or on the stove, and then pouring it in the face bowl and bathing with it," Johnson said.

    Johnson says the last time he had a real shower was sometime late last year.

    New normal

    April 2014 is when city officials switched from using Detroit's water supply to the local Flint River.

    It was supposed to answer the water needs of this city of about 100,000 people. But the corrosive properties of the river water flowing through old pipes throughout Flint leached harmful levels of lead into the water supply.

    Last year, doctors discovered high levels of lead in the blood of local children, which finally put the problem in the spotlight. Now, residents like Johnson are at the center of a water crisis, which has no clear end in sight.

    "I'm angry that people didn't know about it," he says. "I'm angry that people wasn't informed about it in 2014 when it first started."

    As government officials scramble for solutions, the ongoing concern about safe drinking water in the city of Flint is taking a toll on people like Johnson who have decided to stay.

    "I think people in office didn't care," Johnson told VOA. "You know, people who were responsible for this didn't care."

    Water deliveries

    Now, as city, state, and federal officials try to figure out how to solve the problem long term, short-term solutions rest on the shoulders of volunteers like Virginia Bialesco, who distribute bottled water and filters door-to-door.

    Residents of Flint, Michigan, rely on bottled water for drinking, bathing and other uses. "Brushing your teeth, showering, cooking. I mean, we use water for a lot more than just drinking water," said volunteer Virginia Bialesco. (K. Farabaugh/VOA)
    Residents of Flint, Michigan, rely on bottled water for drinking, bathing and other uses. "Brushing your teeth, showering, cooking. I mean, we use water for a lot more than just drinking water," said volunteer Virginia Bialesco. (K. Farabaugh/VOA)

    "If you can't afford to leave an area, and you're stuck in it, think about everything you do," she said in between delivering cases of water to people’s doorsteps. "Brushing your teeth, showering, cooking. I mean, we use water for a lot more than just drinking water."

    Those who don't get water delivered to their home drive to one of several distribution points set up around the city, where National Guard soldiers load cases of bottled water into vehicles.

    "Hopefully, we're learning a lot of lessons here," Bialesco said. "The basic one is not to take our water supply for granted."

    The cost and the scope of solving Flint's water crisis varies greatly, but some residents and officials say the only way to put faith back in the water system is to replace the lead pipes. In Flint, there could be as many as 15,000 of them.

    Flint is home

    Until the problem is fixed, residents like Johnson will have to rely on regular supplies of bottled water and filters to get through the crisis. Johnson says he's also heard more help is on the way.

    "They're talking about bringing in portable showers, with clean water, so people can go out and take showers," he said.

    Despite the problems, Johnson says he plans to stay in Flint.

    "No, this is my home," he said when asked about the possibility of moving.

    It isn't out of the question, he added, should someone offer him the right price for his house.

    "A million dollars," he said with a smile, knowing that's an improbable figure. "I'm not leaving."

    Explainer: How Flint's Water Became Toxic

    Explainer: How Flint's Water Became Toxici
    X
    Diana Logreira
    February 26, 2016 4:05 PM
    State of emergency in the U.S. was declared on January 2016. However, problems with Flint, Michigan’s water started in April 2014. Learn more about the roots of this crisis.

    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora