City to donate $5,000 to Flint Water Fund

Nora Shelly, Reporter

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced Thursday the city will donate $5,000 to help those affected by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The donation will go to the Flint Water Fund, which is managed by the United Way of Genesee County. The Fund provides bottled water, filters and support services for those without a clean water supply.

“There is nothing more important than access to safe, clean drinking water,” Tisdahl said in a news release. “I am proud to lend the City of Evanston’s support to this effort, and I thank each and every individual and organization that makes a contribution.”

The Flint water crisis has been ongoing since April 2014, when Flint city officials chose to switch their water sourcing from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which is highly corrosive.

The river’s water corroded the water pipes, causing lead to contaminate the city’s water. Drinking lead-contaminated water carries high health risks, particularly among children, according to the Flint Water Study. Recently, a state of emergency was declared in Flint and in the surrounding county, allowing for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help out.

Assistant city manager Marty Lyons said Illinois cities have a history of helping out each other — and cities around the Midwest — in times of crisis. Thus, he said the city felt it was important to help out Flint residents, calling it a “humanitarian thing to do.”

“Evanston is demonstrating, along with other Illinois cities, a willingness to work cooperatively,” he said. “Flint is experiencing a once-in-a-city-lifetime tragedy and we think it’s worth the effort to help out.”

Lyons said the money will most likely come from a mixture of general funds and the city’s water fund. He said the amount, $5,000, was not selected arbitrarily but was based off a calculation of how much water the money would provide.

“It’s not a small number, but it’s also not a large number,” he said.

Tisdahl encouraged Evanston citizens and businesses to donate as well. Residents can go to the city’s website or the city collector’s office at the Civic Center to donate. All the money goes to the fund and there is no administrative processing fee on donations, according to the release.

Lyons said the city will send the $5,000, combined with whatever donations they receive from Evanston businesses or citizens, next week.

Jonathan Nieuwsma, the vice president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, said the Flint crisis is also a social justice issue.

“Environmental justice is a critical component of social justice,” he said. “It’s a sad unfortunate fact that environmental problems have a disproportionate impact on economically disadvantaged communities, such as that in Flint.”

Nieuwsma said Citizens’ Greener Evanston will discuss the crisis and how they can help at their board meeting next month.

“In Evanston we’re blessed with access to clean, fresh Lake Michigan water,” he said. “This incident in Flint should serve as a reminder that we can’t take that for granted.”

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Twitter: @noracshelly