Walmart, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Nestle will donate up to 6.5 million bottles of water to students in Flint, Mich., for the rest of the calendar year as the community continues to deal with fallout from a lead-contamination crisis.
The four companies made the joint announcement in a press release on Tuesday. The companies said that the donation would meet the needs of more than 10,000 school children and will be the equivalent of 176 truckloads of water.
The companies are also encouraging others to donate, and they are working with Good360, a nonprofit, to help steer donations to other non-profit organizations working in Flint.
“At Walmart, we take pride in using our strengths to help communities like Flint during times of crisis, as we’ve done around the world in times of need,” Dan Bartlett, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, said. “We’re working to ensure that the children of Flint, the city’s most vulnerable citizens, have access to safe water.”
The contamination dates to the 2014 decision—under a state-appointed emergency manager—to switch the city’s water source to the Flint River to save money. The city did not add an anti-corrosive treatment to the water, which caused the pipes to leach lead.
Residents had complained about the brownish color, foul smell, and bad taste of the water, while officials assured them that it was safe to drink. Researchers from Virginia Tech last year found widespread levels of lead in the city’s drinking water, the Detroit Free-Press reported.
As Corey Mitchell reported this month on District Dossier, faucets in schools tested positive for high levels of lead:
Faucets and drinking fountains at four city schools tested above the federal limits for lead in drinking water, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tests confirmed. One of those schools tested at more than six times the federal limit.
Many have since stepped forward to provide bottled water to city residents, including the singer Cher, who announced that she was donating more than 180,000 bottles of water to the city.
The companies had all donated water and/or water filters to city residents since the crisis broke, they said in the press release.
“We are grateful for Walmart and their suppliers’ support during this crisis,” Bilal Tawwab, the superintendent of Flint’s schools, said in the press release. “With their generous support, District students will have access to clean drinking water, and more importantly, the ability to focus on their education.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.