Things That Matter

This Veteran Helped Bring Clean Water To Flint Residents Until His Invention Was Suspiciously Vandalized

A military veteran whose water filtration system provided thousands of gallons of free drinking water to Flint, Michigan residents had his machine sabotaged in August. The hooligans didn’t merely graffiti the massive “Big Green Machine” as it is nicknamed, they destroyed the battery and drained the fuel. Moses West and the Water Rescue Foundation had installed the machine less than a week before. 

In 2014, Flint, Michigan changed their source of drinking water from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the less expensive source of the Flint River. However, by 2015, after numerous reports of sick children and complaints from the public, a cascade of smoking guns exposed a scandal at play. 

While the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality insisted the water was safe to drink, a Flint doctor discovered remarkably high blood lead levels in children. Meanwhile, an independent study by Virginia Tech researches discovered the Flint River was leaching lead from aging pipes. The lead blood levels in children were so high, a state of emergency was declared

In the five years since the crisis unfolded, many Flint residents have been left without clean water. 

The Big Green Machine is sabotaged by vandals. 

“They drained fuel to add something to the coolant lines played with electronics,” West told WNEM. “That’s not typical vandal stuff.”

West believes there is a deeper agenda to the vandalism because the perpetrators had technical knowledge about how to prevent the machine from working. 

“They broke into the machine and they destroyed the generator,” West said. “It’s very technical, I knew what they were doing. This wasn’t random vandalism, not at all. They destroyed the battery, put metal in the fuel system.” 

West installed the green machine on Saginaw Street where it provided hundreds of people with clean, free water every day. The vandals caused additional waste with over 500 gallons of water having to be removed as a safety precaution.  

“I’m making anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 gallons a water a day and giving it away for free,” He said. “That’s a lot of money out of somebody’s pocket someplace.”

The veteran plans to get the big green machine up and running with anti-vandalism features added. 

“Nothing frustrates me. It’s only an opportunity to do better. No problems, only opportunities.” West told NBC25 News. 

West brings water to Flint, Michigan in August. 

West drove the machine to Flint this August only to have it sabotaged within a few days. The mechanism uses an advanced atmospheric water generation technology to produce water seemingly out of thin air. 

“Here I am in Flint right now supplying an entire neighborhood with water,” West told WNEM. “Right now, the humidity is so high, the unit is producing so much water, even though we’re taking water out it’s still producing water; absolutely pure clean water.”

West founded Water Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit funded by donations. West hopes to get six machines in the area to provide free, accessible water to those most vulnerable. 

“This machine is connected to the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re getting water right now. They come up, they get water. The veterans downtown started coming up and picking up water and delivering it to people who are elderly, who can’t get out, and right now you’re on a boil water notice here, and so everybody knows that so everybody comes up here and gets water.”

Five years later, the water crisis prevails in Flint, Michigan. 

While Michigan officials claim 90 people were sickened and 12 died in the 18 months water was used from the Flint River, a PBS investigation found that 119 additional deaths may have been caused by the contaminated water. 

Although authorities claim that the water now meets the same standards of other cities, with the Flint Mayor Dane Walling toasting and drinking a glass of water on television to prove it, many remain skeptical. 

Members of the medical community like Mona Hanna-Attisha, founder and director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, still advise Flint residents to drink bottled water or filtered tap. In the Washington Post, Hanna-Attisha wrote that until the lead pipes are entirely replaced, residents remain at risk. 

However, she also notes that in the United States, poor regulations all over the country put everyone at risk. 

“Across the United States, our regulations never intended for us to drink ‘lead-free’ water,” she wrote. “Instead, the standard sets a non-health-based action level of 15 parts per billion, which is hopelessly outdated and allows a water system to get a passing grade even when testing reveals dangerously high levels of lead in 10 percent of sampled homes. The regulatory framework is set up like Russian roulette, with the future of children at stake.”

While 15 city and state officials have been indicted, half have cut plea deals and none have gone to jail, according to NPR. Until there justice, it is up to individuals like Moses West to provide accessible water. 

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