FLINT, Michigan — The water supply in Flint, Michigan is so contaminated with lead that it’s spewing out of faucets in unnatural yellow and brown colors. Blood tests show increased levels of poisonous lead in children who live there.
It’s so bad the city’s 100,000 residents have to live off bottled water. But not everyone can afford it.
That’s why people such as Flint resident Marseille Allen have launched GoFundMe campaigns to buy bottled water for people with limited resources.
“Every penny donated will be used to purchase water for Flint residents, particularly for families with children,” Allen said on the campaign page, which went live Sunday.
Allen’s campaign has a goal of $2,000 and had already raised more than that by Monday morning.
“With the funds raised so far, I can purchase more than 3,600 bottles of water!” Allen said as she thanked donors in a campaign update.
President Obama declared a national state of emergency in Flint on Saturday and the National Guard has been deployed to deliver clean water to residents.
Even Cher has gotten involved — she’s teamed with Icelandic Glacial to donate over 181,000 bottles of water.
Most of the bottled water donated to Flint is delivered to distribution centers, but Allen is worried about people who can’t get to these locations.
“We’re focused on the hardest hit areas,” she said. “The elderly can’t pick up water so we’ll deliver it to them and others in need.”
Allen, who lives near the mayor, filters her own water three times but said many of the people in Flint can’t even afford filters.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, Flint’s population is 56.6% African American and the median household income is less than $25,000. More than 41% of the population is below the poverty level.
Basic filters start at about $12 and a pack of three filter replacements costs about $20. But the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has started giving away a free water filter to clients.
The city’s water supply was contaminated with toxic levels of lead, when its source was changed from Lake Huron to the Flint River.
The decision to change the source was made two years ago by the state in an effort to save money. Michigan was in control of the city’s budget because of a financial emergency.
After the change, residents complained about the taste, look and smell of the water. State officials repeatedly told concerned residents there was nothing to worry about, but in August 2015 researchers found high levels of lead in the drinking water.
Now residents, businesses and even hospitals are struggling with basic tasks such as preparing food and washing hands.
Allen hopes the campaign will help spread awareness about how dire the situation is for so many.
“This is going to be an ongoing issue,” she said. “It’s not going to be fixed until the $1.5 billion to replace all of the water pipes is secured. It could take years so really any contribution that people can make — at any point — is going to help.”
A Detroit-native, Allen moved to Flint in September for work. She’s the president of Warriors Trust Fund, an organization that provides emergency funding and support to military veterans.
“I was always raised to give back,” she said. “I’m in it for the long haul.”