The following letter was issued by the leaders of the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences.
The 99,000 residents of Flint, Michigan, have suffered a grievous injustice. While under the control of state-appointed "emergency managers" in 2014, the water in the city's taps began flowing from the Flint River rather than coming from Detroit. When reports of contamination began building last year, the City Council voted 7-1 to negotiate a new contract with Detroit. Emergency manager Jerry Ambrose vetoed it as "incomprehensible."
Today, the corrosives dissolved in Flint River water have degraded the city's delivery system, resulting in lead levels well in excess of EPA standards, plus contamination by E. coli bacteria and the suspected carcinogen total trihalomethanes. Flint residents have been poisoned by water from their own taps, and public officials at the local, state, and federal levels have all failed to protect the public.
We will not abandon these children of God.
Working in interdependent partnership, the Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut Conferences will send aid to Flint, both to protect their health, and to help them obtain justice. In the short term, they need safe water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene. Through gifts via the United Church of Christ's Emergency USA Fund, we will support Flint residents as they install filtering systems - and then replace the filter cartridges. We will also be sending a small delegation to meet with leaders in the area, bearing our care and concern in person, and building the relationships we will need to support them through the long-term recovery.
You can make your gift online here: unitedchurchofchrist.nationbuilder.com/emergency_usa_fund
You can direct your gift toward this emergency by putting "Flint, Michigan" in the designation field.
This disaster strikes the heart of all three of our justice commitments: environmental, racial, and economic. Flint River's corrosive water is a direct result of decades of human pollution coupled with development that destroyed the wetlands that might otherwise have helped heal the damage. Most of Flint's residents are African American or Latino, populations that have suffered disproportionately from environmental hazards. And they are poor: the median household income from 2009-2013, according to the US Census Bureau, is under $25,000 - and 41.5% of the city's residents fall below the poverty level.
In addition to monetary donations, we further urge you (and your parishioners, and your friends) to call Michigan Governor Rick Snyder at 517.373.3400 and urge him to:
- Expedite the process of the State of Michigan purchasing and delivering safe water for all residents to drink,
- Refund all residents who have been required to pay for water that they cannot drink, and
- Secure state and federal funding, including from the EPA Superfund, so that permanent improvements can be made to Flint's water system.
You can register your opinion with Governor Snyder online at this address: somgovweb.state.mi.us/GovRelations/ShareOpinion.aspx
We also urge you to call President Barack Obama at 202.456.1111 and urge him to:
- Encourage all appropriate federal organizations to expedite their support for addressing the immediate need of Flint residents for safe, affordable water, and
- Encourage all appropriate federal organizations to expedite their funding for short and long term improvements of Flint's water system.
You can register your opinion online with President Obama at this address: www.whitehouse.gov/contact
And we urge you to pray. Our forebears in faith knew the value of water, how scarce it can be, how precious for life. Pray that for Flint's people justice may flow down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Massachusetts Conference Minister & President
The Rev. Barbara Libby, Rhode Island Interim Conference Minister
The Rev. Kent Siladi, Connecticut Conference Minister