FLINT, Mich. (BP) — Teams of Kentucky Baptists with expertise in providing clean drinking water to villagers in Third World countries are planning to head to Flint, Mich., next week to install water purification systems for Flint-area families dealing with lead contamination.
Meanwhile, local Baptists continue to distribute bottles of water and offer encouragement where they can.
Coy Webb, head of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, said, “We want to bring hope and help. Many people are hurting, and feeling like they have been let down.”
Webb said five disaster relief teams will be deployed on Monday (Feb. 15). Please see related story.
Lead contamination in the Flint water system has sickened children in a man-made catastrophe that has captured the nation’s attention.
Several local, state and federal officials have resigned since doctors revealed last year that using the Flint River for the city’s drinking water supply caused elevated levels of lead in some children’s blood. Lead contamination has been linked to learning disabilities and other problems.
Flint reportedly switched its water source from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. The river water was not treated properly and lead from pipes leached into Flint homes, according to media reports. The city returned to Detroit’s system this past October while it awaits the completion of a separate pipeline to Lake Huron this summer.
In the past year alone, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief teams have been deployed to Zambia and Mozambique to ensure safe drinking water.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve been deployed within the United States on a water purification mission,” Webb said. “People in Flint are dealing with a problem that can’t be quickly resolved. The struggle is that this is a problem that could last for months if not longer.”
President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration, clearing the way for federal aid to help resolve the water crisis in Flint, where, for more than a year, parents had been complaining that the contamination had been slowly poisoning their children.
The three-person teams from Kentucky will consist of a driver, an installer and a chaplain, all of whom have vital roles to play.
“These teams not only want to give families access to clean water, but they want to give them hope in the midst of crisis,” Webb said.
Local response continues
The Baptist Beacon, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, has reported that local Baptists also continue to help those in need.
Over a dozen men and four teenagers from Westside Baptist Church, just a couple miles outside of Flint, recently endured frigid temperatures to distribute water. In less than two hours, water was donated to people in about 70 cars. More than half of 20 pallets of water were provided by the Michigan Disaster Relief Team.
Large tears rolled down the cheeks of Sylvia, a grandmother of four children in Flint, as she received cases of bottled water. Releasing the steering wheel to wipe away the tears, she announced to the four children in her car, “Babies, this is the only stop we’ll need to make tonight. After we get the water we can go home and make supper.”
“Everyone else is giving away one package of water,” she noted. “That’s why I was blessed when [the church] gave more water to families. I couldn’t believe it.”
Talking about the water lead crisis in the city, Sylvia said, “I’m frightened for my grandbabies. The older ones understand not to drink the Flint water, but the little ones don’t understand.”
“I don’t want them to be sick all of their lives because of what happened,” she said, “I don’t know if that fear will ever go away.”
Reflecting on the gift of water from Southern Baptists, Sylvia said, “It reminds me and my grandbabies that God hasn’t forgotten us. Others may have let this terrible thing happen to us, but God has not forgotten us.”