FLINT - Last fall, members and contractors affiliated with the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 370 donated their time to install hundreds of home faucet filters in this city, whose water system has been contaminated by lead.
Their commitment to the community has continued into the New Year, as Local 370 and Kroger have teamed up to donate 16 truckloads of 24-pack Kroger brand water to the city. That amounts to 25,104 cases of water. Local 370 donated the first $20,000, and Kroger matched the donation.
"UA Local 370 wanted to get involved and help in a meaningful way by getting clean, safe water to Flint residents as quickly as we could," said Local 370 Business Manager Harold Harrington. "We expected Kroger to be a willing source but are thankful for the grocer's offer to match our donation. It is a testimony to a good working relationship."
The first delivery of bottled water was dropped off on Jan. 14, with four truckloads that each contain 19 pallets of water. The donation will be stored until it can be distributed by Flint officials. An additional 12 truckloads are planned to make deliveries in the coming weeks as needed.
"UA Local 370 is a long-time partner for many Kroger projects," said Kroger Co. of Michigan Communication Manager Ken McClure in a statement. "Members originally reached out to us and intended to purchase $20,000 in bottled water. We, however, offered to match the donation and coordinate logistics for the delivery."
In October, volunteers from Local 370, together with contractors William Floyd, Johnson & Wood and Goyette, installed water filters on the faucets of Flint homes, helping senior citizens and others who weren't able to perform the task. Ecker and W.E. Walters have also joined in.
That effort continued this year. During the week of Jan. 18, Local 370, together with their contractors, committed 22 members or so every day of the week to install water filters that capture lead and other impurities on the faucets of homeowners.
Now, other United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters local unions are pitching in. Pipe trades union leaders and contractors from all of the Michigan UA local unions are committing scores of apprentices and volunteers to help install filters and distribute water in Flint. And United Associated unions from across the nation have been asked to send contributions. A major union-backed filter installation and water distributions effort was slated to take place citywide on Saturday, Jan. 30.
Harrington said he has handled calls from all over the country about the water crisis, including NBC News. "You know, this isn't a political effort, we are not pointing fingers to who is at fault," he said. "This effort isn't anything except a lot of people doing their best to help make sure the people of Flint get clean water. And we know what we're doing is just a band aid, not a permanent fix. We're doing what we can."