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What Catholics are doing about Flint’s stunning water scandal


“It all started before Christmas. We knew something was wrong with the water.”

Vicky Schultz is president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties, headquartered in Flint, Michigan. In a recent interview, she recounted the development of the city’s public health crisis over the last two years.

“Everybody knew that the water had an orange tint. Everyone talked about the smell of it,” Schultz told CNA.

Schultz recalled that the discoloration was so pronounced, it could be seen yards and yards away.  Looking out from her office, she watched as fire hydrants were flushed out: “It could be running for hours, and it was still orange coming out.”

In recent months, the employees at Catholic Charities – who were affected by the water pollution themselves – have been a vital resource for a struggling community.

“We’re all doing whatever it takes at ground level to just do what we’re doing, serve our communities and keep our head above water,” Schulz said.

The problems with Flint’s tap water go back to 2014. In April of that year, the city of Flint switched water sources – it stopped purchasing treated Lake Huron water from Detroit, and began sourcing its own water from the Flint River as part of a larger batch of cost-saving measures. The river was a long-time disposal site for industrial waste from automobile companies, sewage and local runoff, but local city official celebrated the switch with a toast of city water inside the Flint water treatment facility

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