The Flint Water Crises: A Citizen’s Perspective

Claire McClinton and Dr. Laura Sullivan, community activists engaged in the Flint Water Crisis presented a citizen’s view at our March 24 meeting. Sullivan is part of the Coalition for Clean Water, serves on the Flint Mayor’s Water Advisory Committee, and is part of the Citizen’s Science Group, an independent water testing coalition.

Rotary Club of Flint, Michigan - The Flint Water Crises
Repint Article and Photo from Rotary Club of Flint, Michigan


Both women were involved in water activism in Flint prior to the crisis through the Water Rate affordability issues and water cut-offs in the city.

When the city switched to Flint River water in 2014, the issue shifted from affordability to drinkability quickly, with complaints of color and odor and numerous health issues. Sullivan said that despite many rounds of testing water quality showing contamination, it took a year and half to citizens were notified not to drink the water. McClinton said when General Motors asked to switch back to Detroit water service that community activists began asking questions about health concerns.

Sullivan said when she first got involved it was an issues of unsafe water. She came to realize it is more an environmental justice issue. One of her struggles is dealing with governmental leaders who discount people trying to help solve the problem. Her latest concern is that there is bacteria in the system, and with warm weather coming she is worried that state officials are trying to quiet scientists working to address the problem.

Both felt that community and citizen involvement were key in breaking the story and bringing attention to the issue. “Without community activists we would still be drinking lead contaminated water,” said McClinton. “The definition of COMMUNITY is all the people who brought water to Flint, all the people who spoke up for social justice and all the people who are still coming together to help one another,” she added.

Sullivan agreed, saying “caring for each other is the best tool we have, we need to listen to one another and take care of one another.

”Both women, and Nayirah Shariff who was unable to attend, were recognized with Paul Harris Fellows as part of our 100 in our 100th initiative, following their presentation.

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