Flint Community Lab holds grand opening, set to bring free water testing to residents

A first of its kind community-based laboratory for Flint residents to get their water tested held its grand opening on Friday.
Published: Oct. 10, 2020 at 2:41 AM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - A first of its kind community-based laboratory for Flint residents to get their water tested held its grand opening on Friday.

The McKenzie Patrice Croom Water Lab, more commonly referred to as the Flint Community Water Lab, is located on Flint’s north side and it will allow student scientists, staff and other community members to come together to educate the community and test water samples from around Flint.

Shelly Sparks, the executive director of the Flint Development Center, said this has been years in the making with collaborations between several different agencies.

“This community is in dire need of somebody to help them stand up for it,” she said. “Fight for it, fight for the right to this community. They have the right for water equality.”

Sparks said that one motivating factors to create a lab like this is to give residents a little more assurance that their water is safe.

The water samples will be collected (or can be dropped off) by high school and college students and will be tested within the lab using Thermo Fisher Scientific equipment.

Over the next three years, the lab will test around 21,000 samples from households across Flint.

“We were looking for different ways to empower ourselves,” said Michael Harris, a partner of the Flint Development Center. “Most people in Flint didn’t know what was going on with their water. They didn’t know it was contaminated or not contaminated and we wanted to solve that problem.”

The lab has been created through a partnership between Freshwater Future, the Flint Development Center, Genesee County Latino Hispanic Collaborative, Flint Neighborhoods United, the University of Michigan Biological Station and the City of Flint; as well as a committee of local residents, donations from The Mott Foundation, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Nalgene Water Fund and other contributors.

For students involved, like University of Michigan-Flint student, Alexandria Schipansky, it’s a great way to learn more about science but also to give back to the community.

“I was interested in the project for several reasons, one is the opportunity to manage a lab but also it’s a unique opportunity where it allows you to actually help the community," Schipansky said. "Especially the Flint community where they have been hit by the Flint Water Crisis. It’s not an immediate solution but it is helping them which is something that definitely needs to happen.”

The lab and program will allow area high school or college students to get engaged in the city’s next phase of recovery. Through the program, students will receive STEM training, travel door-to-door teaching neighbors about the benefits of testing water and restoring trust in the system.

Harris said that he hopes this kind of lab will set an example that can be used around the country.

“This will be a template for other communities to empower themselves,” he said.

More information about the lab can be found on the Flint Development Center’s website.

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