Flint Celebrates Grand Opening of Free Water Analysis Lab
FLINT, MI – Community members, local leaders and supporters celebrated the grand opening of a free water testing lab in Flint that promotes STEM education, skills training and community trust in the midst of the water crisis in Flint.
McKenzie Patrice Croom Flint Community Lab, also known as Flint Community Lab, 4121 Martin Luther King Ave., was celebrated in person and virtually with a ribbon cutting on Friday, October 9. The space, located inside the Flint Development Center, aims to provide a trusted community lab for Flint residents to test free for lead and other pollutants in water, according to lab officials.
The community-built and operated lab that over three years will provide free water testing to 21,000 households in Flint is a collaboration between the Flint Development Center (FDC) and Freshwater Future (FF), two Michigan- based nonprofit organizations.
The Flint Community Lab is named in honor of McKenzie Patrice Croom, whose father Juwan Croom is a lifelong Flint resident and the son of Sharon Reeves and Michael Harris, a founding partner of the Flint Development Center. McKenzie Croom was born with seizures that were complicated by her exposure to Flint’s drinking water.
Flint Development Center Executive Director Shelly Sparks said the lab will have several goals, the main ones being service to the Flint community and a learning opportunity for poor youth and students studying STEM.
“The basis of the lab is to inspire young, impoverished youth from underserved communities, to dream and desire a career as a chemist, biologist, data analyst,” Sparks said. “Anything of that nature because we don’t have enough people of color, or impoverished, to represent communities of color. So it’s important for us to show them that they can be these things.
A team of high school students work in the lab and serve as an influencer in the community, going door-to-door and using social media to publicize the lab’s services and the benefits of its testing program. ‘water.
Students are tasked with working with local residents, visiting their homes, while distancing themselves socially and wearing masks, and collecting water samples, then helping the lab test those samples and brief them. residents of the results, according to project officials.
Daryl Sparks, assistant student coordinator for the lab, is working to get high schools trained to work in the lab.
“I have always been a community volunteer,” he said. “I have always worked here at the Flint Development Center since it started. I would say I was pretty much born to do community and volunteer work. “
Jillian Goyettem, a chemistry intern at the University of Michigan, graduated in biochemistry in December. She got involved in the lab to get another research opportunity.
“It’s us in the lab who actually test the water samples,” Goyettem said. “So we see them (community members) all the way through as soon as we get the samples. We do all the prep work, we do all the tests, and then we send them back with their results. “
Levi Castonguay is also a University of Michigan student who works in the lab.
“I was more interested in the community involvement part of the lab than in the chemistry,” Castonguay said. “Although I was a minor in chemistry, I was more interested in getting into the community and learning how to help people who are impoverished and have bad drinking water.”
Many partners and funders such as the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the Genesee County Latino Hispanic Collaborative, Flint Neighborhoods United and many more played a role in making the lab a reality.
One of the funders, Thermo Fisher Scientific, has donated more than $ 250,000 in advanced laboratory equipment.
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley called the lab a “great gift from God” and noted that it would help build trust within the community.
The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when the city changed its water source from the treated water of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River. The change resulted in approximately 140,000 people being exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water between April 2014 and October 2015.
“The addition of this independent third-party testing lab will help get this community back on track for success and also engage our young people,” said Neeley. “The future belongs to our young people.