Girl Scout Brownie Troupe Fights the Flint Water Crisis

by Tasbeeh Herwees

January 13, 2016
The Brownies made water filters.

The local Girl Scout troupe in Flint, Michigan, is helping to take on the city’s disastrous water situation. The young Brownies got together with the Flint Water Study, an activist group of researchers from Virginia Tech University, and wrote letters to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder pleading for help. They also created water filters, and analyzed how often they use tap water.

Flint’s water troubles began in 2013, when a financial crisis forced the city to stop buying water from Detroit, whose water source is Lake Huron, and begin sourcing water from the Flint River, a notoriously filthy body of water. The residents noticed changes in the water immediately—the water that flowed from their taps was now brown and dirty. Not only that, it was causing skin rashes. Studies reveal that water from the Flint River is 19 times more corrosive than water from Lake Huron. It contains high levels of copper and bacteria, as well as lead, which has been poisoning residents. In children, lead poisoning can stunt growth, cause hearing loss, or even result in cognitive dysfunction. The crisis has compelled comparisons to the D.C. lead contamination crisis of the early 2000s, and has exposed the neglect of both state and federal governments.

“Once we saw the lead in water was high, we started directly working with ACLU and the activist groups in Flint, which is kind of something you don’t do, because people will say you’re an activist,” Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor and founder of the Flint Water Study, said. “But what I learned in D.C., science alone is powerless, absolutely powerless, to these agencies. Facts mean nothing to these people. Scientific truth means nothing to them.”

The Brownies’ letters to the governor, which demonstrate knowledge of the crisis, are heartbreaking appeals for help. Some of them even express deep anger over the crisis, taking special issue with the fact that children were exposed to the lead contamination.


Images via the Flint Water Study.

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Girl Scout Brownie Troupe Fights the Flint Water Crisis