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  • Union Plumbers Volunteer To Help Victims Of Flint Water Crisis (extended)
    Updated On: Apr 07, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, February 25, 2016

    Plumbers and Pipefitters, members of the United Association, have come together to help the community of Flint, Michigan on the heels of the water crisis which has exposed tens of thousands of residents to water contaminated with high levels of lead. The volunteer assistance reached a peak at the end of January as 470 Plumbers and pipefitters from across Michigan joined the local plumbers’ union in Flint to help replace faucets, install water filters, and deliver bottled water and water testing kits to hundreds of Flint residents. Harrold Harrington, Business Manager of UA Local 370 in Flint, says they’ve been working on this project since October:

    [Harrold Harrington]: “We’ve been working on this since October, when we got our first call from the Red Cross that people were having trouble installing these, seniors and homebound people. So far, we’ve hit about 3700 homes, and we’ve been delivering water to every place we go, besides the filter. On January 30th we hit 1500 homes that one day. The rest of it’s been with volunteers and apprentices during the week. We can go in and change a faucet in a half hour, as opposed to a homeowner or an elderly person who would have to pay somebody 500 dollars to do this for them and we’re happy that we can help out.”

    Many of the residents the plumbers are helping are elderly and low-income:

    [Harrold Harrington]: “A lot of them are retired GM workers that worked all their life in Flint, and their family moved away because there’s no jobs in Flint. So, a lot of these people that we’re seeing are 75 to 90 years old. They’re stuck at home and they can’t get out to get the water and they have limited means. It’s sad what we’ve seen, but we’ve had a lot of thank-yous from the residents, and we’re happy to help.”

    While they’ve accomplished a lot since October, Harrington stressed that there’s still a lot to do:

    [Harrold Harrington]: “This just trying to make safe drinking water available to people in their houses. These filters that the state is supplying are only good up to 150 parts per billion, and there’s some houses that are still over that. The need to get their water tested. I think there’s only been 12,000 houses tested so far, and I think thyere’s over 40,000 houses in Flint, so there’s a lot of people haven’t had their water tested yet, and I was one of them up until last week. I finally had the time to get mine tested and turned in. We knew there was something wrong by the way it smelled and the way it tasted and the color of it, but they kept telling us ‘Oh, you’re good. It’s safe to drink.”

    Plumbing Manufacturers, Incorporated contributed materials used by the union to replace faucets and install filters. The International United Association union also provided financial assistance:

    [Harrold Harrington]: “Our members live here, we work here. We’re part of this community. We all stick together, that’s part of being a union, and the International’s helping out, too. So, it’s not just members in Michigan, it’s also all over the United States and Canada. It’s pretty amazing how the unions can come out and get something like this done. It seems like the state officials, and even the feds, they can’t do anything, but we can all band together and get something done. I’m happy to be a part of it.”

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