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Nearly 500 United Association (UA) plumbers from throughout the state of Michigan descended upon embattled Flint recently to deliver water and to install water filters and faucets for residents affected by the city’s water crisis.
UA Local 370 Business Manager Harold Harrington, who resides in Flint, spearheaded the organization’s effort in calling for product and/or cash donations. Thomas Bigley, the UA’s Director of Plumbing Services and an IAPMO board member, helped procure a cash donation from IAPMO and other organizations.
“All our partners in the industry, like IAPMO and the manufacturers represented by PMI (Plumbing Manufacturers Institute), donated material,” Bigley said. “It’s amazing how quickly everyone was able to mobilize on such short notice. The plumbing industry and the UA demonstrated true brotherhood for the citizens of Flint.”

Bigley said about 470 UA members from 28 different locals throughout the state came to Flint on Jan. 30, delivering water and state-provided filters to 1,533 homes. Many of the filters did not fit the faucets because the faucets were so deteriorated. This required the volunteers to replace the faucets with donated new ones.
Lee Mercer, IAPMO’s Senior Vice President of Industry Relations and Business Development, reached out to some of IAPMO’s larger plumbing manufacturer customers to see if they would contribute.
“It was all positive,” Mercer said. “Everybody I talked to said, ‘Yes, we’d certainly be pleased to help.’ ”
Manufacturers including Speakman, Delta, American Standard, Kohler, and Moen contributed kitchen sink faucets. BrassCraft donated supply shut offs and FluidMaster donated lavatory supplies.
Bigley said the UA has received more than $100,000 in donations and is looking into the best way to allocate the funds, such as replacing the homes’ lead service lines and interior plumbing.
“Right now (officials) just don’t know what they need to do to fix it,” he said. “Some people are saying all the lead lines need to be replaced, and others are saying that the chemicals they’re adding to the water now will eventually coat the lead pipe up again.”
Mercer said IAPMO was pleased to be able to help contribute to the initiative in any way the organization could through its connections in the industry.
“When we heard about the UA’s initiative, we were more than happy to jump in and help their cause,” he said.
“Everybody was proud to be there to help in a show of union brotherhood; locals from all different areas participated,” Bigley said, adding that he’d received calls from members from every state and Canada, and they all said they were willing to go up to Flint.
“As far as getting the boots on the ground, that wouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “We can get it; we just need the state or the (federal) government to start implementing something quickly.”

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