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Walking around Flint, Mich., the epicenter of one of America’s most prominent self-inflicted environmental tragedies, residents feel that its water crisis was purposefully allowed to happen. State officials, from the former GOP governor on down, are letting the mostly black city suffer through lead-laced water as a way to clear the town for gentrification.

Liberty Bell, an activist who has been sounding the alarm about the crisis before it made international news in 2014, told The Root that the water crisis has destroyed her family and left them with health problems she fears will only grow worse over time.

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Her son was born in 2014, as Flint and the rest of the country reckoned with what was happening. Thousands of residents have tested positive for lead poisoning, many of them young children. Bell developed shingles that year. Most children there don’t know how it feels to drink water from the tap. Her son has yet to turn on a faucet for a glass of water.

Then came Moses West, whom Bell met in 2018. West, an Air Force veteran, built a machine that pulls molecules out of the air that then turns them into fresh water that people can run from a tap on its side. He first took this machine to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Activists who were in Puerto Rico supporting residents at that time learned of West’s machine and asked him to bring it to Flint. After community leaders raised transportation costs ($50,000), the machine arrived this summer and has served the community ever since; West gave it to the community for free.

For the first time in five years, Bell drank water from a tap.

This, she says, with little support from government at all levels.

Listen to Bell’s story in the video above.

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About the author

Terrell Jermaine Starr

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior reporter at The Root. He is currently writing a book proposal that analyzes US-Russia relations from a black perspective.

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