As national media attention and state and federal declarations of emergency over Flint's water crisis draw eyes to the city's community, residents are tasked with continuing to live within the city’s bounds, feeling the crisis’ effects.
On a Friday afternoon, Saginaw Street — the city’s main drag — is quiet, with several residents walking into the restaurants and shops that have survived the economic hardships that have plagued the area since the closing of a nearby General Motors plant almost seventeen years ago.
On the University of Michigan-Flint campus, a few students linger in the Harding Mott University Center watching T.V. on communal screens, eating or paging through thick textbooks.
Signs around campus tell students the water is OK and safe for them to drink. Students rely on state-issued purifiers on each faucet and drinking fountain to protect them from any possible lead in the city’s water supply while on campus.
Cody Worswick, a sophomore computer science major from Marysville, Michigan considers himself fortunate. Before enrolling at the University’s Flint campus, his mother was aware of the dangerous water quality within the city’s limits, he said, and bought him a filter, which he uses for all of his drinking water.
Worswick said he doesn't trust free filters provided to the community by the government.
“I don’t feel like the (government-issued) filters are even adequate, because I don’t know how well they filter out the lead,” he said. “I just know that my filter filters out the lead, and I don’t trust theirs.'”
At his home, Worswick still gets Flint city water, which he noted comes with challenges that can't be solved just by filtering all drinking water.
“I don’t like the fact that I have to shower in lead water, but it’s whatever. I have to live with it,” he said.
Christopher Miller, a freshman physics and math major, is shoveling snow off a bench on campus. He works for UM-Flint part time.
Miller is one of three people on his street who have well water — but many members of his family are not as fortunate, he said. His friends come to his house regularly to take showers.
Miller said the unfolding magnitude of the water crisis is still unimaginable.
“It was just sort of surreal for a while just because they had been talking about it for a long time — how there was something in their water — and it just wasn’t right,” he said. “My sister is dealing with it, and she was just starting to notice hair falling off — her skin would be really red when she got out of the shower for whatever reason and she didn’t know (why),” Miller said.
He added that any trust between Flint residents and their local and state governments that once existed has disappeared.
“At first it was like, ‘There’s no way the city of Flint is just going to allow the poisoning of 90,000 residents — no, they totally did,” Miller said. “It just helps to further cement the dichotomy — the line of trust that is just never gonna come back in terms of citizens and their government. It’s never gonna come back.”
Miller said he is further angered by the fact that national media, not the months of Flint residents’ complains, sparked governmental attention to the water crisis.
“It was going on for a solid year and a half before the rest of the world picked up,” Miller said. “There’s a city of 100,000 people being poisoned and no one seems to care just because they have shoddy infrastructure.”