Outraged Girl Scouts Send Letters Demanding Action on Flint Water Crisis

A troop of Brownies wrote to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, asking him to help kids in the lead-plagued city.

A sign points the way for Flint residents to get bottled water, water testing kits, and water filters at a local fire station on Jan. 13. (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Jan 15, 2016· 3 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Their young peers have been poisoned for months by the presence of toxic lead in the tap water. Now the members of a Brownie Girl Scouts troop from a nearby town have written letters to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, expressing their anger and concern over the situation and demanding that the water crisis in Flint be solved.

“I am so mad what happen in Flint,” wrote one of the girls from Brownie troop 71729. “They don’t have clean water to drink for almost two years. I hope you fix this problem.”

RELATED: Michigan Governor: Sorry About That Lead-Contaminated Water

Pictures of the letters, and of the girls who wrote them, were shared on the blog of Flint Water Study, an independent research and citizen science organization working with people in the city. Flint Water Study’s all-volunteer research team hails from Virginia Tech and uses their “resources and expertise to help resolve scientific uncertainties associated with drinking water issues being reported” in Flint.

“These pictures are powerful visual forces representative of children who were harmed by a bad policy decision resulting in widespread lead poisoning across the city. These pictures are children concerned about other children and personify what we value as a people, as a nation,” Sid Roy of the Flint Water Study wrote in an email to TakePart.

(Photo: Courtesy FlintWaterStudy.org)

Snyder has been heavily criticized for his handling of the water contamination issue, and many politicians and residents are calling for his resignation. On Wednesday the governor deployed the Michigan National Guard in Flint to help pass out bottled water to its 99,000 residents. “They are now going door to door handing out filters and bottled water, but this is still very late,” wrote Roy. A federal investigation was begun in early January. The office of the attorney general for the State of Michigan announced on Friday that it had also launched an investigation into the situation.

The crisis began in April 2014 after Darnell Earley, an unelected emergency manager appointed by Snyder, switched Flint’s water source from Detroit’s to the heavily polluted Flint River in order to save the city $5 million over two years. Flint has struggled financially since General Motors shuttered several manufacturing plants in the town in the mid 1980s—the effects of which were documented in Michael Moore’s 1989 film, Roger and Me. The water in the Flint River is more corrosive, which caused old lead pipes in homes to leach the metal into the H2O flowing through it. The city switched back to Detroit’s water in October, but lead may still be flaking off the corroded pipes.

(Photo: Courtesy FlintWaterStudy.org)

Roy, a doctoral student and researcher in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, declined to share exactly which town the Brownie troop is located in. But according to the Flint Water Study blog, the letters were a part of a broader lesson the troop learned about the need for clean, safe tap water. Prior to penning the letters to Snyder, the girls, ages six to nine, talked about when they use water throughout the day, made filters, and discussed the effects of lead contamination in water.

There’s no safe level of lead consumption. The metal negatively “affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment,” according to the World Health Organization—and the effects are irreversible. A study released in September found that 4 percent of Flint’s children have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

"It is unfortunate and horrifying that Flint residents were exposed to high levels of lead and many other health issues for 18 months. The failure of state and federal government of stepping in and protecting a city of 100,000 is unconscionable," wrote Roy. “The switch back to Detroit water was a relief and all efforts being made—free water testing, free lead filters, free blood tests, etc. are welcome.”

Snyder has yet to respond to the letters from the Brownie troop. As for how the general public can help the situation, Roy suggested that people around the U.S. “contribute to the national ongoing debate about safe water and prioritizing people over financial savings.”

(Photo: Courtesy FlintWaterStudy.org)