Kearsley students from Flint still struggle with their water


Seniors Rayanne Churchill (front) and Katelyn Bleau work in creative writing class. Churchill lives in Flint and still has lead-tainted water in her home.

By Katelyn Elumbaugh, Kearsley High School

Flint’s citizens have been struggling to get clean water for more than 32 months, and many of those citizens attend school right here at Kearsley.

The water has been contaminated with lead since April 2014 when the main water source for citizens was switched to the Flint River and corrosive agents were not included in the new water treatment, which caused lead to leach from lead service lines throughout Flint.

Senior Rayanne Churchill and her family of six finds it difficult to live off bottled water alone.

“We have to get the cases of water from churches,” Churchill said.

The water bottles that Churchill and her family receive are not enough to live on.

“We usually get about 11 cases, twice a month, and we go through them really quickly,” Churchill said. “We still have to shower in the contaminated water. My mother and I both have hair loss because of it.”

A former Kearsley student, Mrs. LeeAnne Walters, lives in Flint where the water cannot be consumed even with the use of a filter.

Walters, an alumna from the Class of 1996, is still paying a water bill even though the water cannot be used.

“Currently, at my home and other homes on the south side of Flint, we are not allowed to drink water from the filters they provided because they cannot maintain chlorine levels in our water,” Walters said.

Walters’ home had the most toxic lead level recorded in Flint at 13,500 parts per billion. To put that in perspective, the federal standard for acceptable drinking levels is 5 ppb and the standard for toxic waste is 5,000 ppb.

For Walters, getting clean water became a fight. One that she still has not won.

“The EPA is testing our house on a weekly basis for bacteria because of the lack of chlorine,” Walters said.

The national news media has left Flint and rarely covers the story anymore even though Flint citizens are still struggling to live without clean water.

For Walters, this is not acceptable. Even though President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in January 2016, that declaration has expired.

“Flint hasn’t been in the news lately because the federal emergency was allowed to expire August 14, 2016,” Walters said. “People have the misconception that things are better because of it. We need to make people understand that is not true.”

There are children who still have to shower and families that are still having to do dishes and cook with bottled water.

Senior Katelyn Dunn’s water requires a filter on her faucets because of the water issue.

“Since the news has stopped covering the issue as much as they had when it began, the rush to fix the problem has decreased,” Dunn said. “It isn’t fair to the people who can’t use their water at all. I know it is a big job, but I feel like the news should still be covering it.”

Congress recently passed a bill called the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act to help Flint.

Two important things it does to help Flint is provide access to $100 million in funding to help fix Flint’s drinking water infrastructure and earmark $50 million to address the health care needs of children who have been exposed to lead.

The bill now goes to the president’s desk for his signature to become law.

In a press release, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., said the bill is good news for Flint families because people “have waited far too long for their government to provide real relief.”

Kildee also said, “Flint residents are strong and resilient people, and I know that we can recover from this man-made crisis with the appropriate resources and investments in our community.”

For Churchill, government relief will be welcomed. She said she’s happy that any governmental body is finally going to do something about solving the problem.

“Well, I’m glad that they’re (Congress) finally doing something about it,” Churchill said. “I’m happy because my brother had rashes on his arms, I’m losing my hair, and I get this rash every time I get out of the shower. So I’m glad that if they like fix it, that that won’t continue.”

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law Friday, Dec. 16.

“Today I am signing the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act into law,” Obama said. “It authorizes vital water projects across the country to restore watersheds, improve waterways and flood control, and improve drinking water infrastructure.

“The law also authorizes $170 million for communities facing drinking water emergencies, including funding for Flint, Michigan, to recover from the lead contamination in its drinking water system. That help for Flint is a priority of this administration.”

Read the original story here.