On Friday, October 9th, 2020, The McKenzie Patrice Croom Flint Community Lab, part of the Flint Development Center, celebrated its grand opening with a live streamed virtual event featuring lab staff and students, partners, community leaders, and funders ending with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
The Flint Community Lab — the first community-based laboratory of its kind in the world — provides Flint residents with a trusted resource for free water testing of lead and other pollutants. Through generous financial support from both philanthropic and private funders, the Flint Community Lab unifies residents around a common issue: the safety of water in their homes. The success of this project to date is due to the commitment of Flint Development Center and Freshwater Future along with the involvement from a host of dedicated partners. This innovative approach and collaborative community involvement has already received national recognition including the 2020 US Water Prize.
The project’s focus is providing residents with knowledge about the safety of their water, and resources to help people trust that their water is safe, as thousands of pipes have been replaced in the City of Flint and the system continues to improve. The lab will provide free water testing and resources in Flint to help residents navigate the myriad of information they see and hear about water quality, to ensure their families’ health. Shelly Sparks, Director of the Flint Development Center, hopes that “The community lab will provide an opportunity for Flint to be a model as an innovative approach for the community to take the lead to gather data, analyze, and find solutions to our future water issues.” With the lab now fully functional, teams of students and volunteers will take and analyze water samples, survey homeowners, and provide filter, fixture and plumbing education.
April 2014 marked the beginning of the Flint Water Crisis. The cameras may be gone from Flint, but the real truth is that for many still living there, the crisis isn’t over. Trust in the drinking water and government waned after the Flint water crisis, which resulted in roughly 140,000 people being exposed to lead contaminated drinking water between April 2014 and October 2015.
While filters are being used to reduce lead in water and the system continues to heal, many residents still don’t have enough information to trust the water in their homes. Jill Ryan, Executive Director of Freshwater Future, notes that “Community leaders helped us realize that the key to developing trust was through a multigenerational approach including training and education for youth who could then pass that information along to adults in the process of testing homes for current lead levels.”