Detroit to Flint Water Justice Journey media coverage

This article, by MCHR board member Abayomi Azikiwe, was originally posted here.

A week-long, cross-state march, organized under the theme “Clean, Affordable Water for All: Detroit to Flint Water Justice Journey,” ended in Flint, Mich., on July 10.

Organizations sponsoring the walk included the People’s Water Board, the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization in Detroit and others. Activists from Highland Park, Pontiac and Flint joined the march and rallies held in all four cities.

MWRO Co-Chair Marian Kramer, who lives in Highland Park, a small municipality surrounded by Detroit, reported that residents did not receive water bills for three years due to layoffs of meter readers.

The city of Detroit is now claiming huge debts are owed by Highland Park. Massive shutoffs could be imminent.

Under emergency management and bankruptcy, the banks and corporate interests sought to shield the forces responsible for the current crisis in access and safety. In Detroit, $537 million was taken out of the system in order to terminate interest-rate swaps issued by leading financial institutions, including Chase, Bank of America, Loop Financial and Morgan Stanley.

In Flint, where the water situation is perhaps the worst, people marched and gathered at City Hall on July 10.

Although both Flint and Detroit have been removed from emergency management, the state of Michigan is still overseeing the finances of both municipalities. Water shutoffs in each city continue, but in Flint residents are also faced with the extreme deterioration of the quality of their service.

The Flint water system was connected to Detroit’s massive infrastructure until, under emergency management, it was broken off in 2014 as a “cost-cutting measure.”

Water flowing into residential homes is coming directly from the Flint River. Testing by outside experts indicates that the use of high levels of chlorine and ferric chloride could be causing corrosion in the lead and iron piping system. At least half of the homes in Flint were constructed more than 50 years ago when the use of lead was common.

New regulations based on the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 are not being enforced in the city. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality has been criticized for not exercising its authority in response to complaints from Flint residents.

Flint resident holds hair and contaminated water.Today families in Flint are suffering from a number of health issues. Water from the local system has been described as not only undrinkable but unfit for washing and cooking.

Flint resident holding hair and contaminated water

Residents discussed the health problems they are facing due to contaminated water. Melissa Mays of Flint, who chaired the July 10 rally, said that she and her children were diagnosed with copper poisoning in March. The family is now in a detoxification process under medical supervision.

A Michigan American Civil Liberties Union report suggests that the local water department’s testing methods are designed to conceal the level of lead exposure of residents. Before samples are taken, residents are told to run the water in an effort to flush out the toxin build-up near the faucets.

Curt Guyette, of the ACLU of Michigan, reports, “Flint’s water contained corrosion-control chemicals until April 2014, when Flint’s ties to the Detroit water system were severed. … Discontinuing the use of the anti-corrosion chemicals allowed the toxic scale built-up on the insides of pipes over the past decades to be released into water flowing into people’s homes.”

LeeAnne Walters requested two city tests of her water. It revealed dangerously high levels of lead, charting 104 parts per billion and 397 ppb.

Yet Virginia Tech researchers found lead levels in Walters’ water had reached 13,200 ppb — more than twice the amount at which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declares water as hazardous waste. (deadlinedetroit.com, July 9)

An extremely angry Flint resident outside City Hall brought with her a container of brown water run from her tap. She also held a fistfull of her hair, which she said fell out after washing with this water. She blamed the local and state authorities.

Capitalist disinvestment at root of crisis

Flint has been hit over the decades by plant closings and financial ruin caused by the banks and corporations. The birthplace of the United Auto Workers is now a source of underdevelopment and political oppression.

Much like Detroit, the city’s landscape is covered with abandoned factories and commercial structures. The foreclosure rates were extremely high at the height of the Great Recession several years ago.

Local officials are hampered by the constraints placed on politicians under state supervision.

Michigan’s right-wing, multimillionaire Gov. Rick Snyder had presidential aspirations but failed miserably when he placed a statewide referendum on the ballot to raise sales taxes, aimed ostensibly to repair Michigan roads. A corporate media television outlet revealed that most of the money during the first year would go toward paying off bond debt on previous road construction schemes. After the referendum received an 80 percent “no” vote, Snyder announced he would not pursue the presidency.

The water march gained a significant amount of media coverage. Participants submitted a petition to the state Capitol in Lansing demanding clean and affordable water.

However, capitalist interests remain dominant in water management, which includes the global anti-worker firm Veolia. Every effort is being made by the ruling class to privatize the system. It will require vigilance to fight the corporate and financial interests seeking to deny safe water to the people.

 

For more coverage of the Detroit to Flint Water Justice Journey from start to finish, check out the following articles, listed by publication name:

Oakland County 115

Tony Trupiano interview with Lila Cabbil and Marian Kramer before walk

Michigan Radio

Fox 2 Detroit

MyFoxDetroit.com

WXYZ Detroit

Worker’s World

Huffington Post

13abc.com

The Republic (Columbus, Indiana)

WEYI (NBC Flint)

Seattle Pi

Central Michigan Life

SFGATE

Tony Trupiano interview with Kim Redigan during walkMLiveMichigan Radio (post-walk coverage)ABC 12 (Flint rally coverage)The Elkhart TruthMLive (Flint coverage)

Join us as we walk from Detroit to Flint and demand clean, affordable water for all!

waterwalk

CLEAN, AFFORDABLE WATER FOR ALL:

Detroit to Flint Water Justice Journey

The Detroit to Flint Water Justice Journey is about lifting up the need for clean and affordable water in Michigan. The walk will begin on Friday, July 3 in Detroit where tens of thousands of citizens have had their water shut off and where the 2005 Water Affordability Plan has been passed by the Detroit City Council but never implemented. From there, the walk will continue to Highland Park where the community has been threatened with mass water shutoffs after years of administrative mismanagement. The journey will conclude on Friday, July 10 in Flint where residents reporting serious health problems related to unsafe water from the Flint River – hair loss, autoimmune disorders, skin burns, and children with lead poisoning – share their stories. Along the way, the walk will pass through cities, rural areas, lakes, rivers, and watersheds.

The walk itself is simply the thread that weaves together a series of important public events to highlight the issues by hearing from people on the front lines – local residents personally affected by unsafe and unaffordable water, concerned citizens, people committed to water justice including public health workers, attorneys, pastors, elders and youth. The key events include: the sendoff from Detroit on July 3, a cultural event and town hall meeting in Highland Park that same afternoon, a public cross-county speak out in Pontiac on Sunday, July 5, and a rally at Flint’s Town Hall on July 10. The focus is on connecting caring communities at these public events and sharing our collective concern for clean, affordable water upheld as a human right and to affirm that water is a sacred trust that should be held as a common rather than a commodity.

Governor Snyder has been invited to Flint on July 10 to hear from citizens from the cities of Detroit, Highland Park, and Flint.

Weeks ago, members of the state legislature were invited to a public hearing on water that involved testimony from these communities. Now, concerned citizens will return to Lansing via bus after the Flint rally to call for clean and affordable water at the state capitol.

 

Parents and teachers: Have your children or students color this page and take a picture of them holding it to post on social media using the hashtag #Detroit2Flint! Don’t forget to Tweet it to Governor Rick Synder (@onetoughnerd) to show your family or community’s support for clean and affordable water for all in Michigan!

 

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

FRIDAY, JULY 3

8:00 AM: Spiritual water ritual, Underground Railroad Monument (Hart Plaza), led by indigenous Water Women

9:30 AM: Meet-up at Central United Methodist Church, walk to Water Department, and Spirit of Detroit.

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM: Send-off at Spirit of Detroit Statue (send-off is scheduled for 11:00 AM)

2:30 PM- 3:30 PM: Cultural Celebration, Nandi’s Café, 12511 Woodward Ave, Highland Park, MI 48203

4 PM to 5:30 PM: Highland Park Town Hall Meeting and Rally, St. Luke’s A.M.E., 363 Labelle St, Highland Park, MI 48203

9:00 PM Detroit Light Brigade, 9 Mile and Woodward, Ferndale, MI

SUNDAY, JULY 5

7:00 PM to 9:00 PM: Meet for a Cross County Speak out, Baldwin Center, 212 Baldwin Ave, Pontiac, MI 48342

FRIDAY, JULY 10

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM: Rally for clean, affordable water, Flint City Hall, 1101 S. Saginaw Street, Flint, Michigan 48502.

11:00 AM: Bus to Lansing. Arrive in Lansing 1 PM.

 

DAILY WALK MEET UP TIMES and LOCATIONS

Friday, July 3:

8:00 AM: Underground Railroad 1 Hart Plaza Detroit, MI 48226 (Indigenous Water Women Ceremony)

9:30 AM: Central Methodist Church 3 E Adams Ave, Detroit, MI 48226 (Deliver letter to water board)

10:00 AM: Spirit of Detroit (Rally and walk sendoff at 11 AM)

*NOTE: Cars parked at Central Methodist need to be moved by noon. Will try to assist with shuttling people.

Noon (approx.): ACLU Offices 2966 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 (Curt Guyette/possible film)

2:00 PM (approx.): Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament 9844 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202 (IHMs)

2:30 – 3:30 PM: Nandi’s Knowledge Café (Cultural Event)12511 Woodward Ave, Highland Park, MI 48203

4:00 – 5:30: St. Luke’s AME Church (Highland Park Town Hall and Rally) 363 Labelle St, Highland Park, MI 48203

9:00 PM: Nine Mile and Woodward (Light Brigade)

Saturday, July 4:

8:00 AM: Ferndale First United Methodist Church 2331 Woodward, Ferndale, MI 48220

Sunday, July 5:

Noon: Birmingham Unitarian 38651 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304

All are invited to join service at 10:30 AM

7:00 – 9:00 PM: PONTIAC CROSS-COUNTY EVENT

Monday, July 6:

8:00 AM: Baldwin Center 212 Baldwin, Pontiac MI 48342

*NOTE: Park in gated lot. Gates locked at 5 PM.

Tuesday, July 7:

8:00 AM: Grange Hall Public Carpool Lot (exit 93 off I-75), Clarkston

Wednesday, July 8:

8:00 AM: Call 313-579-9071 that morning to arrange meeting place in Holly.

Thursday, July 9:

8:00 AM: Grand Blanc UMC 515 Bush Ave., Grand Blanc, MI 48439

*NOTE: Park on outer edges of lot; senior activity scheduled that day

Friday, July 10:

9:00 AM:  Woodside UCC Church 1509 Court St., Flint MI 48503 (Walk to City Hall begins at 9:30)

11:00 AM: City Hall Rally 1101 S. Saginaw St. Flint, MI 48502

JUST A REMINDER TO BRING SUNSCREEN, A WATER BOTTLE, SNACKS, AND GOOD WALKING SHOES

 

 

Sponsored by:

People’s Water Board Coalition

Highland Park Human Rights Coalition

Flint Coalition for Clean Water

Michigan Coalition for Human Rights

and other orgs listed on PWB website

 

waterflag

Be a part of history; we need YOUR help. We still need people to help with driving support on July 5, 7, and 8. We also invite people to contact us (support@mchr.org) who are interested in walking and then staying nights at our host churches along the way as part of the core walk team.

We also are in great need of people getting the word out to everyone to take part in the Detroit – Highland Park – Ferndale events on Friday, July 3, the Pontiac Town Hall on July 6, and the final rally in Flint on July 10. The final rally will be followed by a bus to Lansing- please consider joining as a day walker for an hour, a half day, or more. Healthy snacks are always welcome.  

Meet The Detroit Residents Fighting Back Against Having Their Water Shut Off

This story, by Bryce Covert, was originally posted on Common Dreams, here.

 

detroitshutoffs

On Wednesday, Michigan lawmakers held a hearing about water affordability and safety. Many of those who came to testify were residents of Detroit who have been dealing with water shutoffs, which resumed last week for thousands of people.

One of them was Annette Parham, who had her water shut off for about a year for owing $645. She’s been out of work for eight years, so at the time she didn’t have any income to pay off her bills. Meanwhile, she claims she was being charged for using more water than she needed to cook and clean for herself. Residents have seen their water bills rise 119 percent over the last decade with another 8.7 percent hike approved last year.

While the water was off, she got by the best that she could. She bought bottled water to use in her home. “I had one neighbor who let me wash clothes, another neighbor let me take a bath,” she said. But even without water flowing from her faucets, her bills kept accumulating because she says she was still being charged for sewage.

The experience wasn’t just difficult, but humiliating. When a house gets its water shutoff, the Water and Sewage Department marks the sidewalk in front in blue. “They went through the whole neighborhood, almost the whole east side,” she said. “When I be out walking, you could see all the blue.” Despite the fact that she had a lot of company, she hated the attention it drew to her. “The kids say, ‘Oh they cut your water off,’” she said. “It just got to the point that it was really embarrassing, hurt my feelings.”

She’s confident that if she had been able to take advantage of a plan based on her ability to pay, she could have kept her water on. “I would have been able to take care of it, to pay it,” she says.

Today, she’s homeless, moving from friend to friend who will take her in. “Now it’s just like, I’m waking up everyday to survive.”

Activists and organizers pushed state lawmakers on an affordability plan at the hearing in front of a packed room with at least seven lawmakers present, according to Sylvia Orduno with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. The Detroit city council approved a plan in 2006 that would have set water rates between 2 and 3 percent of a resident’s income, rather than a flat rate, but it was never implemented.

Their testimonies on Wednesday also raised the disparities between rates that Detroit residents pay and those paid by people living in the suburbs. While one person testified that her bill had reached $900 a month, a representative of Oakland County, a wealthier area, noted that her own bill is about $160 every three months. Those testifying asked “to get some equity in the rates,” Orduno said.

State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D), who helped organize the hearing, said her plan is to take what got discussed in the hearing and turn it into action. “We’ll be taking that information to hopefully work on some legislation,” she said. No bills have been introduced yet, and she noted that “everything is still in a little bit of an ideas stage.” But she would like to see a bill that would allow municipal water systems and others to create affordability plans, as well as look at shutoff protections. At the end of the hearing, Orduno said lawmakers brought up the possibility of a shutoff moratorium as well as forgiving bills for those who don’t even receive them for a certain amount of time.

Roslyne Walker, another Detroit resident, could really use an affordability plan. The water department had already threatened to shut her water off once for owing $600, but she enrolled in a program meant to help her keep her water on and pay it back. It’s not helping her very much. “The program they put me on, they want me to pay the current and late fees. That’s too much,” she said. Her bill, she says, is now $1,150. “Every month I pay $127 [but] it’s going up and up and up.”

Then on Sunday, she got home to find a shutoff notice on her door saying the last day of service will be June 9. If she loses her water, she’s certain she’ll lose her housing. She lost her job working for the city in 2008 and has since enrolled in Section 8 housing assistance. “When you don’t have a job, they pay your rent but they don’t pay your bills,” she noted. “If you can’t keep up your bills, you’ll get kicked out of Section 8.” She doesn’t have somewhere else to go. “My disabled son…will be out on the street,” she said. “I’m praying to god that doesn’t happen.”

She’s hoping that the hearing will bring her some relief. “If they gave us affordable water and anther contract or deal, we would be able to pay our water bills,” she said. She noted that many in attendance at the hearing were moved to tears by the stories they heard. “So maybe they’ll make a deal for them to stop turning off the water.”