Flint schools have clean water for first time in years after $480K Elon Musk donation

The Elon Musk Foundation has been working on the project since 2018

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 09 February 2022 20:45
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Students in Flint, Michigan, will be able to drink clean water from school water fountains for the first time in years, thanks to a charitable effort funded by Tesla founder Elon Musk.

On Tuesday, students and school officials took their first sips from the fountains, which are connected to sophisticated new filtration systems that eliminate contaminants like lead from the water.

“This means a lot. Water should not be something that we have to pay for – water is a necessity of life. It should not be something we have to fight for,” Superintendent Kevelin Jones said at a ceremony celebrating the new filters.

The non-profit Elon Musk Foundation donated $480,000 in 2018 to fund the new systems, as well as $423,000 to buy laptops for students.

The foundation donated 136 filtering stations that will serve twelve different school buildings in Flint.

Water supplies in the city were contaminated with catastrophic levels of lead in 2014 when officials decided to switch to a cheaper water source.

The new filters, whose implementation was delayed in 2020 by reconfigurations, were tested by researchers at the local Kettering University, as well as Arc Environmental, an outside contractor, before being put into use.

“It feels amazing to have clean water as an option now,” ninth grader Rachya Spottsville told MLive.

The district had been handing out bottled water to students for the past six years.

In 2018, Mr Musk also pledged that he would “fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels,” though it doesn’t appear he or his foundation have funded projects beyond the school water filters.

The Independent has contacted the Musk Foundation for comment.

Resident of Flint said they were grateful for Mr Musk’s support, but that the problem went far beyond needing water filters, which can still allow for contaminants if residents don’t properly install and maintain them.

“We had a lot of things damaged as a result of the corrosive water,” then-Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in 2018. “This is about reestablishing trust, and rebuilding trust. While filters have been helpful, we still need access to bottled water. People need to see all new pipes going in. That’s how you’re going to reestablish trust. And we know that’s what the residents deserve.”

Officials said last summer they were in the final stage of checking service lines in over 27,000 homes and replacing over 10,000 lead and galvanized steel pipes in the city. 

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