Flint, MI– The City of Flint’s Water System Advisory Council is seeking applications from Flint residents to join.
During a virtual forum on May 17, Flint resident and Acting Chair of the Water System Advisory Council (WSAC), Dr. Benjamin Pauli explained that after the resignation of one member, the group needs more Flint residents to join in order to be in compliance with the City Charter.
Under the charter, multi-member bodies like the WSAC must comprise of at least 75% of Flint residents. With the resignation, the group dropped below that threshold, Pauli said.
The council was formed in October 2021 in adherence to a change made to the State of Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires every water system serving more than 50,000 people to establish a WSAC.
“These councils are mandated under the law to, among other things, help raise awareness about lead and drinking water, promote transparency of data and documents related to lead in drinking water, and advise water utilities around lead in water remediation and lead service line replacement,” Pauli said.
In Flint especially, he said that residents have faced issues in accessing information about the water, and haven’t had much influence on how water issues are dealt with.
“The existence of the council is supposed to help the community address some of those kinds of problems,” Pauli said, as the council should regularly be interacting with local, state, and federal representatives, as well as the community to uplift their questions and concerns.
The group is only required to meet with each other once a year, but Pauli said they have been meeting every month, sometimes in the dome at City Hall, and sometimes at other locations. Their meetings are open to the public, and notices of meetings are posted here.
Currently, the council has 11 volunteer members all with varying expertise and different kinds of involvement in water issues in the community, Pauli said. Members were nominated by the mayor and approved by the Flint City Council, but Pauli said he believed members were “independent-minded people.”
“No one is telling us what to do, what questions to ask, what questions not to ask,” he said.
The council cannot exercise power “in a direct way,” but can make recommendations, amplify resident voices and demands, and take a stand on water-related issues, Pauli explained.
“That’s not everything, but it’s also not nothing,” he said. “So we do have the opportunity to exert some influence.”
Residents interested in applying to join the council can send an email explaining who they are, their interest in joining the council, a resume, and anything that speaks to their relevant expertise to WSAC@cityofflint.com.