Despite health issues, Flint activist plays pivotal role

Apr 27, 2016

Melissa Mays has been one of the busiest and most vocal activists in the Flint Water Crisis. Current State speaks with her about how she and her city are doing two years after her family’s health issues began.

Last week, two people helping to solve the Flint water crisis were recognized by Time magazine on its list of most influential people. Virginia Tech engineer Dr. Marc Edwards and Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha are credited as whistleblowers in exposing the danger Flint residents were in. But many, more anonymous Flint residents are also intensely involving in addressing the city’s water emergency.

Melissa Mays  is one of them. Mays is a co-founder of the activist group Water You Fighting For.

The Mays family has been hit hard by health issues due to high levels of lead in the family drinking water. She’s been one of the most active and outspoken critics of government officials in the crisis and is a participant in two lawsuits stemming from the crisis.

We talk with Melissa Mays about her family and the water crisis being faced by residents of Flint.


On the mission of “Water You Fighting For”

“Our first goal was to inform everyone. We went ahead and held huge protests and marches. We had rallies and educational meetings to take the information we learned on how to protect yourself - and also how to detox all these chemicals out of your body. That’s what we’re still doing, but we’re taking it to the courts.” — Melissa Mays

How frustrating is the waiting game in Flint?

“It’s horrifying. You never know when a small piece of lead is going to break off into the pipes and poison your entire family. There’s a family near me, and their tests just a week ago came up 22,000 per billion parts. Fifteen is the absolute max - anything over two is a concern. This can happen anywhere at anytime. As Marc Edwards called it, it’s complete Russian Roulette. It’s terrifying because there aren’t really ways to protect yourselves from that. They can’t even tell us any way to protect ourselves. So until these contaminated pipes are out, we’re not safe at all. We’re very frustrated because it’s been two years.” — Mays

Have you been tempted to leave Flint?

“Oh, definitely. Unfortunately, I’m a homeowner. I’ve had my home for seven years, so I will get nowhere near what I owe on the house. My son is going into college. I can’t file bankruptcy because I need to support him with his student loans. On the other hand, we can’t sell our home. Who would want to come into Flint and buy our poisoned water house? I don’t think I could morally sell my house to another family, knowing mine has been poisoned. We don’t have the money because I’m on unpaid sick leave. We are like most of the people here - we’re stuck. We also want to continue to fight and make this right for everyone else who is absolutely stuck here.” — Mays

What single thing would benefit citizens of Flint who are enduring this?

“I think the state should settle with the families since the state did this to us. That way they can replace their own pipes inside their homes instead of just the service lines. Put in home filtration to protect them, get them medical care - or just move them! I think the state should settle to give us the option to be able to protect ourselves - because that’s what they took away from us by lying for a year and a half.” — Mays

On Rick Snyder’s promise to drink filtered Flint water for 30 days

“Well, within a week he went off to Europe - then they said it wasn’t for 30 days in a row.  He went to a home that has five lead parts per billion. Zero is what you need, of course. He didn’t go to the home of the family that I know with 22,000 parts per billion in their water. He didn’t live like they do. He didn’t wait in line at a fire station to get one case of bottled water per day. He doesn’t have to shower in this, with his hair coming out in clumps. He doesn’t have to go through this. It’s just a slap in the face that he said he was going to drink filtered water for 30 days, because there’s still homes without filters. Nobody here in Flint bought it. We said  ‘That’s ridiculous, please get him out of our city” -- Mays