Brownie Troop Tackles Toxic Water

Girl Scouts around the country are known for more than their delicious Thin Mints cookies, and this week one troop tackled a service project close to their hearts — and homes. Since April 2014, the people of Flint, Michigan have been drinking contaminated water. The water has high levels of lead in it — a toxic metal that damages the heart, bones, kidneys, intestines, and reproductive systems. Children are at especially high risk; exposure to lead can cause developmental and behavioral problems. Lead poisoning, in severe cases, can even cause death.

After experiencing two years without any real effort to get the city cleaner water, Girl Scout Brownie Troop 71729 took action, because they too had enough. The younger Girl Scout Brownies, who are typically second and third graders, gathered to bring back clean water to Flint. The girls made water filters, counted how often they drew water, and wrote letters to Michigan governor Rick Snyder pleading for help and change.

The Flint Water Study, spearheaded by an independent research team from Virginia Tech, posted heartbreaking photos of the girls' letters.
Photo: Courtesy of Flint Water Study
Photo: Courtesy of Flint Water Study
So, how did this situation get so out of control, and what caused the water contamination? In March 2013, the Flint city council decided to stop buying Detroit water and join Karegnondi Water Authority, a new pipeline project which would save the city an estimated $19 million over the course of eight years. Detroit notified the city of Flint that starting in April of 2014, it would stop selling water to the area, even though the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline would need three years to be complete. In March of 2014, the city broke ground on its Flint River water supply.

Almost immediately, people began complaining about darkly colored, foul-smelling tap water. Studies found that lead levels had risen 10 times higher than they were before the water source change. According to WDIV-TV in Detroit, hospitals discovered that the children in Flint had almost doubled their lead levels.