Saturday, January 23, 2016

Letter from Flint Public Library about Lead in Water Crisis to PUBLIB

On Sat, Jan 23, 2016 at 9:05 AM, Kay Schwartz <> wrote:

 Friends in the Library world,

The Flint Public Library is getting many expressions of sympathy from libraries all over the country about the water crisis in Flint - thank you all so much for your concern for our community and our library!

 Flint indeed has a long road to travel, because we have to now determine  what homes and businesses and what underground water systems were damaged  by the corrosive water, and decide how to fix all that. Now that we're
 back  on regular Lake Huron water, we still aren't able to drink it until each and every home and building is tested to make sure that the service lines  AND the lines within the home are not leaching lead. It varies building
 to  building, neighborhood to neighborhood, and house to house. Understand that it was not the river water per se but the failure to add  corrosion control to the water, that caused the damage. The water was ok when it left the plant but corroded the pipes on the way to homes and  corroded the pipes inside your home or building on the way to your  faucets.

 From what the EPA has said, the use of corrosion control is so basic that  they didn't at first believe Flint wasn't using it. This failure resulted  from direct advice to Flint from the Michigan DEQ.

 We do know that some children have been exposed to lead for as much as 18  months, either at home or at school, or both. One of the saddest findings  is that three of our elementary schools had lead levels that, at least in  some of the samples, were above the danger level. So kids were drinking lead contaminated water in their school buildings from April 2014 through  the entire 2014-15 school year and until October 2015.

\Toxic lead levels found in water at three Flint schools 

 At Flint Public Main Library (our only site), soon after the switch to  river water in April 2014 we noticed that our water from the faucets and  in the toilets was discolored. We didn't really know what was happening but
it was clearly due to the water switch. After four months or so of yellow-tinted water from the faucets all the time and orange water in the toilets when we arrived after the weekend, we declared the water> undrinkable, even though the City said it was safe. We contracted with Absopure to bring in water coolers for both the public and staff areas.  So  I'm happy to say we've been providing clean drinking water here at the  Library since August of 2014. Eventually we will need to determine the  condition of the infrastructure in our building and decide what to do  about  the plumbing, but it's not an emergency at this time.

 The situation has been different and much more difficult in the Flint  homes that were affected by the corrosion. People have had to bathe their  children with the yellow water, wash their clothes in it, and decide  whether to drink it and cook with it or to purchase water for those  purposes. Again, the water quality for the past 18 months has varied from house to house - some neighborhoods had perfectly clear water. But was it  carrying lead all that time? We don't yet know. Lots more work to do.

The Library has been providing information referrals to the public on the  water issue through a wonderful information network in our community. We're  pretty small here so news travels fast; we have great local media and a  regional/local 211 service. The City, Health Department, United Way, and  others decided to make 211 the central point for information, so we've  been  able to connect people with the information they need.

 We are grateful for all the water donations that are coming to Flint from everywhere in the U.S. But the costs that will be incurred to mitigate  the damage to children from lead exposure are going to come due over a long
period of time and with costs that can't possibly be known right now 

For anyone who wants to help our community deal with the long range> effects of this crisis, I encourage a money donation to our Community  Foundation's Flint Child Health & Development Fund that has been  established to fund programming now and into the future for kids affected by lead exposure. This is a gift that will be greatly needed even after the  current water issues are solved. Go to 

Flint Water Crisis Response – Community Foundation of Greater Flint

 for more information, and the donation page is here.  

Thanks to everyone for your heartfelt  sympathy and offers of support...


Kay Schwartz 
Flint Public Library
 1026 E. Kearsley Street
Flint, MI 48503 


  1. I'm in school studying to become an information professional. I also consider myself to be a human rights advocate, even if only on a small level. It is so great to see two of my passions combined. Thank you Flint library for protecting your patrons.

  2. Thank you for keeping us as well as your community informed about the Flint water crisis. I'm so sorry the people of Flint, especially the children, are going through this. Thank you for the donation information. I am in school studying to become an information professional, too, like the previous commenter. You have inspired me to include human rights as part of the scope of public librarianship to which I aspire. Please continue to let the wider library community know how we can support you and the people of Flint.

  3. People who need to buy water fountains for schools will find numerous options online. There are several online stores where people will be able to check out different kinds of water coolers. People should also keep their budget in mind while making such purchase.

  4. Hi people,
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