By Lori Nelson Savage
Flint’s water emergency, its effect on neighborhood housing and a need to upgrade the tennis courts at Woodlawn Park ignited discussion at the January College Cultural Neighborhood Association (CCNA) meeting.
“I don’t think this is a death blow for Flint or for our neighborhood, I think it’s important that we talk about that,” said State Senator Jim Ananich, himself a resident of the neighborhood, addressing a group of about 50.
No need to pack up
The water is “a serious issue, without question. It needs to be addressed in a serious and thoughtful way, but we don’t have to all pack up and move out of Flint,” Ananich continued.
“This never should have happened to us and to our city, there’s no question about that, but there are solutions that we can focus on.”
Ananich said that using the state and federal allocations for clean water, infrastructure improvements, proper nutrition, diagnostic testing for signs of developmental deficiencies, and training for health care workers’ will help Flint recover.
He stressed that even though the water is testing better in most places, people should not trust it yet and should continue to filter their water.
Some attendees voiced concern the change to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA), which will pipe in untreated water, may create the same problems with corrosion.
Corrosion mysteries remain
“The lead and copper rule was supposed to be followed and it wasn’t,” Ananich responded. According to the EPA, the Lead and Copper Act is to protect public health by minimizing the amount of lead and copper in drinking water, by reducing water corrosivity.
He reminded the group that as water engineers have explained, the presence of lead and copper in drinking water is primarily due to the corrosion of lead and copper plumbing.
Ananich said that at the local level he does not know who decided not to put corrosion control chemicals into the Flint River Water, but he does know who made the decision at the state level. “According to emails there were 3 individuals that the governor was going to fire on January 4, that hasn’t happened yet,” he said.
Ananich went on to say, “One person got transferred; one person got promoted somehow and the other person is still the deputy. These people deliberately didn’t tell anybody – these people knew something was wrong in February.”
“Accountability is very important…If we have a drinking water division that is so incompetent or has the philosophy of don’t tell the public protect my own job first,” Ananich said, “that scares the heck out of me.”
Property values examined
Many in the audience expressed concern about what the water crisis is doing to their property values.
According to local realtor Mark Fisher, nine months ago, 23 houses in the neighborhood were on the market and now there are 37 homes for sale – an increase of 14.
“Always had a pretty good inventory of homes,” Fisher said, “but the water crisis hasn’t helped.” He said that banks are not denying homeowners mortgages as a result of the water crisis or positive test results for lead. He said many homeowners can resolve water issues by purchasing a reverse osmosis or similar filtration system. “The homeowner can improve the results,” he said.
Woodlawn Park improvements discussed
Judge Geoffrey Neithercut and Angelo Panoff asked the neighborhood association to back their efforts to raise money for the repair of the tennis courts in Woodlawn Park. Adam Moore, Flint city planner, offered three strategies to improve the park: (1) create a Friends of the Park group; (2) adopt the park; or (3) give money to the City to pay for repairs.
“To attract people, you need good schools, good streets and good parks,” said Angelo Panoff. After lengthy discussion, the group gave the CCNA executive committee the power to negotiate with a small group of neighbors forming as the Friends of Woodlawn Park.
The CCNA will meet next at 7 p.m., March 17 at Mott Community College’s Regional Technical Center (RTC) auditorium.
Staff writer Lori Nelson Savage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.