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Health officials, activists team up in response to Flint Water Crisis

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Social justice groups are teaming up with local county health officials to call for change in the wake of Flint’s drinking water crisis.

In Flint today, they announced their intention to work together to call for “health equity."

“What is most important at this point is to repair the damage done to the residents of Flint and to assure that they are protected from further harm,” says Charles Wilson, the health promotion and disease prevention supervisor Washtenaw County Health Department.

But the group’s focus goes beyond Flint.

“The water crisis in Flint has been in the making for decades,” says Rev. Charles Coleman, pastor of New Faith Temple Church in Saginaw, “and was precipitated by the immediate dysfunction of governance.  This is not just a Flint story.”

Several speakers said the current water crisis in Flint is part of a bigger problem in Michigan, involving disinvestment in urban centers, inadequate land use policies, and a lack of government and corporate accountability. 

Linda Vail with the Ingham County Health Department admits there is a “natural tension” between the government officials and activists that are part of the “Power to Thrive” coalition. But she says public health is rooted in social justice. 

“There are some of us trying to reclaim that in our government bureaucratic work,” says Vail. 

Meanwhile, the members of Power to Thrive make it clear they will continue to push hard for change.

“Biblical justice predates and transcends partisanship,” says Rev. Dan Scheid of Flint’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. “If justice is reduced to a partisan issue, then we are all in trouble.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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