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Flint water plant

Focus on Flint

By Rick Fitzgerald

University community pulls together to address Flint water crisis

Faculty, staff, and students from all three University of Michigan campuses have been coming together over the water crisis in the city of Flint to offer everything from research expertise and accurate information on the situation to water filters and bottled water.

UM-Flint Chancellor Susan Borrego and Provost Douglas Knerr are leading the coordinated University response.

“We are a campus of problem solvers,” Borrego recently said in a message to the University community. “We are committed to making a difference in our students’ lives and in our community.

“I want you to know that as an institution we are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure the safety of our students, our faculty, our staff, and our campus visitors. I also want you to know that we recognize that this is far more than a campus issue. We must work to ensure the safety and well being of our community.”

A call to action

“Flint exemplifies the larger issue that decaying urban water and sanitation infrastructure leaves many cities vulnerable to similar public health catastrophes.” — Joseph Eisenberg, professor of epidemiology
Faculty members from all three campuses gathered at UM-Flint Jan. 29 in a collaborative effort to “identify areas of expertise, outline strategies to meet immediate community needs, and propose longer-term solutions to the systemic issues underlying this crisis.”

In an invitation sent to dozens of faculty members on the Flint, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor campuses, the U-M provost said, in part:

“The University of Michigan-Flint is issuing a call to action to interested faculty members from all campuses of the University of Michigan to help identify ways in which we can respond to the Flint water crisis.”

Part of that call to action is a commitment by President Mark Schlissel to provide $100,000 in seed funding for University faculty research initiatives to address the Flint water crisis.

Additional efforts

UM-Flint has long been engaged in responding to the water crisis as a key member of the Flint community. All drinking water is filtered on the UM-Flint campus. The University has been testing the water monthly on campus for the past 12 months. View details.

Additionally, there are these efforts, with new initiatives being added:

  • UM-Flint is offering a free, open-to-the-public course focused on the Flint water crisis. The class began Jan. 21 and is continuing for seven additional sessions. View details.
  • The School of Public Health launched a website devoted to responding to the Flint water crisis with information on experts, partnerships, research, and media coverage. View details.
  • Water quality researchers in the College of Engineering are closely watching the unfolding situation with regards to several long-term aspects of the Flint drinking water crisis. View details.
  • Michigan News has developed a list of faculty experts on many topics surrounding the Flint water crisis. View details.
  • Michigan Radio has been focusing its environmental reporting team on the Flint water crisis. View an archive of that reporting.
Rick Fitzgerald

Rick Fitzgerald

RICK FITZGERALD is associate director of public affairs for the University of Michigan. His main areas of responsibility are emergency preparedness, labor agreements, university budget, and special projects.