Black Woman-Owned Company Awarded To Replace Flint Water Pipes

Written by on May 24, 2017

(Photo credit: The Hub Flint)

The Flint, Michigan, water crisis started back in April 2014 after Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder and other politicos fast tracked a measure to change the source of processing Flint’s water from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department directly to the Flint River–all in order to save/get money. As a result, the water became contaminated with lead and other toxins and more than a dozen people died and thousands of children and adults became seriously ill after being routinely being exposed to dangerous levels of lead based water. Since then, many studies have been done, court trials had, fundraisers created, astronomical water bills issued and a lot of the “blame game” has been played, but one thing remains: Flint residents are still without clean water.

Earlier this year, a federal magistrate approved a $97 million settlement. The order mandates that thousands of pipes made of lead and galvanized steel be replaced—a three year project. To that end, additional resources have also been allocated from federal and private sources making a total of more than $250 million being earmarked to resolve the man-made disaster.

WT Stevens Construction, a construction management and services firm based in Flint, Mich., is the only black-owned company to be awarded a service contract to replace contaminated water pipes across the city.

The Network Journal reports that WT Stevens is “one of just four companies recently contracted—under a court order—to replace more than 18,000 lead corroded pipes.”

(Photo credit: TNJ.com)

The family-owned company was founded by W.T. Stevens in the late 1990s. When Stevens died in 2002, Rhonda Grayer and her seven siblings joined together and began the work of continuing his legacy.

The company has already readied itself for the task ahead by hiring about 20 staff, ranging from clerical and general laborers to plumbers and machine operators. Among the added personnel are ex-offenders and youth, two segments of Flint’s population the company recognizes for unique training and experience needs.

“[My father] trained many people … This is the biggest project we’ve done,” Grayer said.

Rhonda Grayer’s husband, former NBA player Jeff Grayer, serves as project manager and shared that the project is important on several levels.

“This is home for me and my family and I wasn’t going to sit back and do nothing as a person or as a businessman,” Grayer said in an exclusive interview with TNJ.com.

“Our company is usually the only African-American-owned business to respond to request for proposals for various Flint city contracts even now after the court rulings related to the water crisis,” he said. “This is a major project that will ensure public safety and start rebuilding trust between the city and the community…something that has been missing awhile.”

Grayer said the target is to have all 18,000 lead corroded residential pipes replaced by December 2019, with 6,000 being replaced by the end of the year.”

When cells in the brain absorb lead, it tends to affect the frontal cortex, the area responsible for abstract thought, planning, and attention, and the hippocampus, essential to learning and memory. But the resulting symptoms vary a lot between individuals

Factors like age, sex, amount of lead in the body, and genetic makeup can drastically alter the particular combination of symptoms caused by lead poisoning in the brain–younger children and boys display the strongest neurological effects.

One thing is constant, however: lead is toxic, and if it makes its way into the still-developing brains of young children, many of the effects can be permanent. Lead can change how signals are passed within the brain, how memories are stored, even how cells get their energy, resulting in life-long learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and lower IQs just to name a few.

If a child has in fact been poisoned, however, there are only a handful of treatments available with little results.

“I will tell you that it is really exciting and the most important part of it is the opportunity to employ people who may not have had other opportunities,” says Rhonda.

For information about the company, you can visit their website, here.

Yasuh


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