FLINT, MI — Jaden Smith joined community leaders and residents at Flint’s Latinx Technology and Community Center, located on the city’s east side, for the unveiling of another Water Box.
“We are excited to be here,” said Latinx Technology and Community Center Director, Asa Zuccaro. “We are excited to be here today because we are about to unveil an amazing tool that our community will be able to utilize as we address a public health crisis in efforts to make sure we have healthy and prosperous community.”
Zuccaro added that his center which has served as a bottled water hub for Flint’s east side, had recently run out of funding to continue their bottled water distribution as the community continues to navigate through the Flint water crisis.
This is the fourth Water Box being brought to the city; the others are located at First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, and Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle.
Mayor Sheldon Neeley stopped by the event to make a statement, thanking the Smiths and the community organizations that were willing to partner to facilitate a smooth transition from bottled water to other healthy sources of water. The Water Box is the “transition that we need,” Neeley said.
The Water Box is a mobile filtration system that utilizes the same technology as JUST Water, Smith’s bottled water company. The system is designed to filter out several types of heavy metals, sediments, and bacteria, and provides water at a rate of 10 gallons per minute.
When speaking on the benefits of having these systems available for community use, Smith cited self-sufficiency as one.
“We wanted to get it to the community and have places where we can have it in the community so if the water bottle donations continue to go down and down and down you’ll know that we have four water filtration systems in the community,” said Smith.
Smith was joined by Drew Fitzgerald, co-founder of JUST Water, and Jaron Rothkop, an engineer for 501CThree, to talk more about how the system works.
“We worked with University of Michigan and Kettering University on ways in which it was best to treat water in Flint. We have an unlimited supply of water, it’s just not drinkable. So we focused first on that, and our starting point was the JUST Water plant and the technology we were already using there to filter water.” said Rothkop. “What we have inside this box is a collection of best practices on how to treat metals in water.”
There are two parts to the Water Box program, the first part being: filtering the water. The water goes through three stages of filtration, according to Rothkop. The first two filters remove the sediment and impurities, while the last filter tackles heavy metals and any other contaminants.
The second part of the program is testing, and full transparency when it comes to who is testing the water and who is saying the water is clean. Tests will be run at the Latinx center by a group of trained volunteers, daily, and posted online for the entire community to view. In addition to daily on-site testing, once a week the water will be sent to an outside lab in Detroit in order to certify the results are similar. These tests will also be posted for public viewing.
As for cost, it doesn’t. For every gallon of water that goes through the system, the Latinx Technology and Community Center will be reimbursed.
Rothkop made a point of mentioning that all of the information on how to build the Water Box and how to run the program is going to be made publicly available for anyone in the country who finds themselves in a similar crisis.
When asked if he was interested in partnering to bring more Boxes to the Flint area, Smith responded that they want to continue with the Water Boxes until the community says “stop.” “That fifth Water Box will happen. It’s just depending on where is it going to be, and who is going to be responsible for it.”