The public health crisis in Flint, Mich., in which city residents have been exposed to lead contamination from the city’s drinking water, has garnered national media attention. And the plumbing industry has stepped up to help.

In October 2015, the Red Cross responded to 250 first-in-need individuals, handing out faucet water filters from the state. The Red Cross then contacted Harold T. Harrington, business manager of the United Association Local 370 Plumbers and Pipefitters, to ask for help with the filter installation.

“At the time, we had four contractors who donated their vans and their gas,” said Jeffrey M. Peake, organizer/recruiter for Local 370. “And with one of our funds at the local, we were paying plumbers for their time to go out and install the filters. There was a brief period of time when things settled, and no one was really talking about the issue. In January, the issue came back up and we had our apprentices and volunteers from the local going out and installing more filters. With that, there became a need for those homeowners whose faucets couldn’t use the filters.”

In response, the UA and Plumbing Manufacturers International contacted industry manufacturers who then donated hundreds of faucets and other plumbing supplies installed in more than 1,500 homes.

On Jan. 30, a team of nearly 470 plumbers from local unions of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry installed the faucets and supplies, along with water filters provided by the state of Michigan. The humanitarian effort was coordinated by PMI and the UA Local 370 in Flint. Both organizations saw a generous response to a joint call-to-action issued to their members, with some volunteers traveling hundreds of miles to help.

“We installed more than 400 filters and replaced 113 faucets that would not accept the state-supplied filters,” Peake told Plumbing & Mechanical. “We also had more than 20 contractors send their service vans that day — for a total of 68 vans.”

PMI members contributing to the effort were American Standard Brands, BrassCraft Mfg. Co., Delta Faucet Co., Fluidmaster, Kohler Co., Moen, Speakman Co. and Viega.

“Seeing hundreds of volunteers gathered in one place with all of the donated products under the banners of the PMI members was truly inspiring,” said Barbara C. Higgens, PMI CEO and executive director. “The can-do attitude demonstrated by all the participants was heartwarming, but it is what we’ve come to expect from these outstanding professionals and companies.”

The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association also is highly concerned about the contamination of drinking water. “The situation is a clear reminder of the importance of protecting public health and safety, which is part of PHCC’s mission,” said Michael R. Copp, PHCC’s executive vice president. “It is clear that what is playing out in Flint provides an opportunity for PHCC to remind consumers and local officials to hire highly trained and licensed PHCC professionals. PHCC members are skilled in delivering safe drinking water using best industry practices to protect the public’s health and safety.”

PHCC agrees with comments released by the American Water Works Association: “As an association, we exist to help our members first, so we try in a situation like this to collect the information from the event that is going to help them understand it and help them do their jobs better.” A key role in situations like these, AWWA adds, is helping members work with their customers.

 “Since [Jan. 30], almost on a daily basis, we have been going out and helping more and more,” Peake said. “Our contractors also are starting to get contracts where they are replacing the lead service lines in the city.”

Currently, PHCC is exploring options for supporting the PHCC of Michigan and its local chapters impacted by this disaster. In the meantime, Copp encourages contractors to actively remind lawmakers, regulators and other officials to engage the PHCC community and its extensive expertise before making decisions that may compromise the health, safety and welfare of consumers.

Plumbing manufacturers issued the following statements:

  • “In times like these, we all come together to help,” said Paul Patton, senior manager, R&D and regulatory, Delta Faucet Co., and 2016 PMI board president. “At Delta Faucet, we understand the vital importance of access to clean water. We are honored to participate in the larger PMI effort to provide safe drinking water to the people in and around Flint.”
  • “Our company mission, simply stated, is to make life healthier and safer for people in our backyard and around the world,” said Steven Delarge, president and CEO, LIXIL Water Technology Americas, American Standard, DXV, GROHE. “Helping our fellow citizens in Flint, Mich., during this devastating crisis is a natural response for us. We are privileged to join other leading faucet and fitting manufacturers by supplying kitchen faucets for installation in affected homes by skilled union plumbers. Safe drinking water is a basic human right. This fundamental right must be restored to the residents of Flint and we are proud to be part of making that happen.”
  • “This crisis is close to us because … we help people get access to clean water every day,” said Delaina Lee, director of marketing communications at BrassCraft Mfg Co. “Watching the news, we see the despair and frustration of the residents of Flint and we want to do our part to help things get back to normal.”
  • “Fluidmaster is proud to partner with the UA and other PMI member companies in support of this effort to support the great people in Flint,” said Todd Talbot, Fluidmaster president.
  • “Everyone should have access to clean, safe drinking water, and Kohler believes strongly in this principle both globally and here at home,” said Chris Baldwin, president of Kohler Global Faucets. “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with PMI, our fellow members and the UA to provide a level of relief for some of the affected individuals and families in Flint.”
  • “Moen is honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with other industry organizations to help the residents of Flint,” said Andrea Conroy, Moen’s senior director of marketing — wholesale. “Our donation of faucets and manpower is the least we can do to help this community get back on [its] feet.”
  • “Pfister is honored to partner with the other members of PMI and the UA in helping to make the lives of our fellow citizens in Flint, Mich., healthy and safe,” said Matt Zimmer, Pfister’s vice president of marketing. “Access to safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. We hope that these products will help many families find, once again, the level of wellbeing and comfort we all expect to have in our homes.”
  • “A family company and a proud member of PMI, Speakman is honored to have the opportunity to help the residents of Flint, Mich., in their time of need,” said Kristin Barclay, vice president of product and marketing at Speakman. “All of us at Speakman are passionately committed to protecting water, and it is our hope  this modest donation of showers and faucets will help the Flint community enjoy and experience clean water once again.”
  • “Viega is proud to support Flint, Mich., in its time of need,” said Dalyn Cantrell, vice president of sales and marketing at Viega. “Safe drinking water is critical to life and our innovative products will help provide the homeowners in Flint with solutions to their water quality and water efficiency needs.”

The types of faucets and other materials and services donated by PMI members were: kitchen sink faucets (8-in. center set) by American Standard, Delta Faucet, Kohler, Moen and Speakman Co.; 18-in. kitchen sink supplies by Fluidmaster; and 5/8 O.D. compression x 3/8 O.D. compression, straight chrome shutoff valves for under kitchen sink and 5/8 O. D. compression x 3/8 O. D. compression, chrome angle shutoff valves by BrassCraft. Products, food and drink for the volunteer plumbers, and seminars on water quality and safety were provided by Viega. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials — a PMI allied member — also contributed to the effort.