As blame continues to be shifted from agency to agency in the Flint, Michigan water crisis, one Sedalia man is stepping forward to help the town’s people by taking up donations of water.
Elder Eugene Poole, the Sedalia-Pettis County NAACP economic development committee chairman, began his water donation project in January after talking with Sedalia Mayor Stephen Galliher.
“I talked with the mayor on Jan. 29, 2016,” he said. “He thought it was a good idea. I told him I was in the process of trying to collect water to be sent to Flint, Michigan.”
According to the Associated Press “In an effort to save money,” in April 2014, the city of Flint began using water from the Flint River instead of water from Detroit. At the time, the decision was to be temporary. It was not.
In September 2015, a group of physicians asked Flint residents to stop using water after high levels of lead were found in the bloodstreams of children living in the town, the Associated Press reported. In January 2016, President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration. He ordered federal aide for the city of Flint and authorized “the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate relief efforts.”
On Thursday, hearings were taking place with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington D.C. where Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, blamed the crisis on politics while the Federal Environmental Protection Agency pointed the blame back his way.
Sedalia’s Elder Poole is standing above the fray and looking toward the needs of the people who live in Flint.
“It came in my spirit that the people need help,” he said on Thursday. “I have always been a person that was more than willing to help. When I found out that people were in need, I prayed about it and as I focused on the situation it was just devastating to know it was a man made event.
“This wasn’t an act of nature,” he added. “It was more or less done for greed and control. As some of the politicians said, if it was in another part of Flint that never would have happened.”
He added that he was concerned for the children who were exposed to lead when drinking the water and worried about the long term effects the exposure would have on them in the future.
“The more water that they consumed, the worse things got, as far as health wise,” he added.
“We think it’s very important to help other people and to show our support of the citizens of Flint,” Sedalia Pettis County NAACP President Rhonda Chalfant said. “Remembering that the poor are always hit the hardest by things of this nature.
“The effects of lead poisoning are so insidious and sometimes take quite awhile to show up,” she added. “We certainly hope that the people of Flint, particularly the children, are rescued from this before any major damage occurs.”
Chalfant said that Poole has done an excellent job of pulling the the project together.
Poole said water collection centers in Sedalia are at the First United Methodist Church Celebration Center and the Rose M. Nolen Black History Library. So far, the donations are going well and Poole plans to stop collecting April 1.
“The Open Door has been great in donating water,” he added. “We’ve received water from others, so the project is well on its way.
“I haven’t gotten to the manufacturers and businesses and industries here in Sedalia yet, but the word should be out,” he added. “So, I’m going to start to work on them next week.”
Poole has made contact with Nathaniel Washington, in Flint, Michigan, who will act as the distribution center. Donnie Price, plant manager for MPW Water Industries, will help with the transport for the water donations.
“He said we wouldn’t be able to send it on their trucks, but he would help us as much as possible,” Poole added.
Poole is accepting all sizes of bottled water, but especially gallon size.
“The gallon size will be more helpful than the smaller sizes,” he added. “We just want to try and collect as much water as possible to try and help the people there in Flint.
“The whole town should know their condition now,” he said. “Sedalia’s always been great in giving donations and helping others out that are dire need. So, I’m sure they will do the same for people in Flint, Michigan.”
Those who wish to donate bottled water for the project may bring either gallon sized or smaller bottles to the Celebration Center at 1701 W. 32nd St. or the Rose M. Nolen Black History Library at 109 Lima Alley. For more information call Chalfant at 826-5592 or Poole at 827-4182 or 281-9375.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.