Six students from John Brown University who traveled to Flint, Mich. in March to report on the water crisis created a documentary and held a public screening of the footage in a Multicultural Organization of Students Active In Christ (MOSAIC) meeting last week.
The documentary featured interviews with Flint residents, with topics including how the water crisis was affecting their health, time and what solutions they were implementing.
“It kind of shows how easy it is to hide things when you are above everyone else,” Ratzlaff, one of the students who traveled to Flint, said of the government officials who made the decision to switch water sources. “People are going to try to cut corners.”
The city of Flint began using the Flint River as its new water source in April 2014 in an effort to save money. While this water was more corrosive than the previously used water from Lake Huron, the city did not provide corrosion control treatment. As a result, the water corroded the pipes and lead from the pipes leached into the water. Residents soon began to complain about the water’s taste, smell, color and rashes.
“There is a disconnect in that they think they can cut these corners without there being consequences,” Ratzlaff said.
In the documentary, residents spoke about how long it is taking to see effective action in replacing the corroded pipes.
Ratzlaff said it is as if the government is only providing an empty hush without details and implementation. “We’ve got it. Shhh,” Ratzlaff said. “They’ve received millions of dollars in emergency funds, but we don’t really know where that is going.”
In September 2015, doctors in Flint discovered high levels of lead in children’s blood, which can cause brain damage. President Obama declared the situation a federal emergency in January of this year. Residents continue to use bottled water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth and bathing, according to ABC News.
A U.S. district judge dismissed a class-action lawsuit over Flint’s contaminated tap water on Tuesday.
Judge John Corbett O’Meara said he did not dismiss it based on the lawsuit’s merits, but that the federal Safe Water Drinking Act prohibits residents from seeking a civil rights lawsuit in this situation.
Kelly Escarcega, another student who went to Flint, and Ratzlaff said that after having seen the crisis themselves, they feel compelled to do something more than creating the documentary videos.
“We haven’t decided what to do yet,” Escarcega said, “but this is defi nitely not it.”
Escarcega said it was humbling to experience the hospitality of the Flint residents and frustrating to realize that they wanted to help but there was little they could do that wasn’t already being done.
Ratzlaff said it’s important to serve Flint in the way the residents are asking to be served.
“They’re the primary initiators,” Ratzlaff said. “They’re on ground zero the whole time, and we’re just not. Trust in what they ask,.”
Ratzlaff and Escarcega listed some of the practical ways that they can support the people of Flint: sharing the documentary, making sure that Flint residents are heard and donating to local organizations that are already creating solutions, such as the local United Way.
“I’ve heard of peoples sending letters, and then they will read them out loud,” Escarcega said, describing letters of support that could be written to local leaders such as Water You Fighting For founder, Melissa Mayes, and Mission of Hope director, the Rev. Bobby Jackson. Escarcega said the message of these letters should be: “We support you. You’re in our thoughts and in our prayers,” and “We haven’t forgotten you.”