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In April 2014, levels of lead in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan began to rise due to corroding of service lines caused by an untreated water supply as the city of Flint decided to switch the water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) in an attempt to save the city money.
Although the residents of Flint almost immediately began to complain about discolored water, it wasn’t until Aug. 17, 2015 that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) ordered Flint to improve the corrosion control treatment in the water supply after studies from the first six months of 2015 revealed elevated lead levels. Many City and State officials denied there was a problem for months some even going as far drinking the water on TV to prove it was “safe” such as Mayor Dayne Wallings.
According to the EPA, “young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults.” Some of the health effect include behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, anemia and in rare cases lead consumption can lead to seizures and death.
Following an independent probe that placed blame on state officials, several lawsuits were filled against several officials and 2 corporations. Early in 2017, a $722 Million class action lawsuit was against the EPA on behalf of over 1,500 residents affected by the water crisis.
In March of 2017, the state of Michigan approved spending of $87 million in their latest attempt to solve the problem. The plan is to replace nearly 18,000 pipes over the next 3 year and 6,000 pipes this year alone. One of the four companies contracted is WT Stevens, a black owned general contractor based in Flint, Michigan.
As the bidding process began for the contract, WT Stevens, due to their background and previous work, saw the opportunity to be a part of the solution to the water crisis. For some like lifelong resident and Vice President of WT Stevens Rhonda Grayer, the project hits close to home.
“I feel like this is personal to me because I have family members that live inside the city of flint and that are impacted by the water,” Vice President Rhonda Grayer said. ” My business is in the city of flint and i grew up in the city of flint, so it feels very personal to me.”
As a relatively small contractor taking on a big project, WT Stevens had to expand to reach the capabilities required for the contract.
“We hired probably 20 to 30 employees and we hired probably 70% of those were from the city of Flint,” Grayer said. “We felt like we had provided some opportunities for local families. A number of these people are second chance, so many wouldn’t have had a chance to not only be a part of a project of this magnitude and helping there community but having a job with good wages.”
Other News Sources Coverage of the Story and Additional Details on the Water Crisis:
Last week Betty Shelby was acquitted on charges of felony manslaughter for the killing of Unarmed Civillian Terrence Crutcher. On Sept. 16, 2016, Crutcher’s car broke down in the middle of a two-lane road in Oklahoma. After receiving multiple reports, Shelby was called to the scene where she encountered Crutcher. According to a CNN Report, Shelby claimed Crutcher was sweating heavily and smelled of PCP when she encountered him. Shelby made multiple request for Crutcher to get on the ground and when he appeared to reach in his car, Shelby reacted and shot Crutcher, claiming she thought he was reaching in his car for a gun. A gun was not recovered from Crutcher’s person or car but, PCP was later found in Crutcher’s car and he did test positive for PCP according to an autopsy report from the Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.
According to Fox News, “in a post-trial court filing on Friday, jurors said Shelby could have used a less-lethal method to subdue Crutcher and could have saved his life. The jury foreman also noted in a memo that jurors weren’t comfortable with the idea Shelby was “blameless” in Crutcher’s death.” (Fox News)
On Monday, Shelby returned to work. Although, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Shelby would not return to work in a patrol capacity.
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