The 25,000-square-foot headquarters of the $406 million SecurityCredit Union sits across the street from the Flint River and abouta half mile from the water treatment plant of the city of Flint,Mich. Over the last several months, this small, strugglingindustrial city has been the subject of national headlines due tohigh hazardous levels of lead in its water system.

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While the Flint water crisis is a serious public health problem,particularly for children, Chad Merrihew, senior vice president andCOO for Security, said the national media coverage has beensomewhat sensationalized by some national media outlets.

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Although the credit unions headquartered in the city of Flintand those cooperatives based just outside of Flint have not hadwater quality problems in their facilities, the cooperatives haveorganized efforts to help those that have been directly affected bythe water crisis. What's more, credit unions across Michigan andoutside the state have also chipped in to help.

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“The latest statistics we have seen released from here in Flintis that 92% of the water tests completed in the city of Flintshowed no lead, which is contrary to what some media sources wouldlead people to believe,” Merrihew explained.

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Since Security began testing its water, every result showed thatlead was not detected.

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“I think it's an important story and there are definitely peoplein the city of Flint who are being impacted by having lead in theirwater, but I also think the media tried to portray it as a citywideand countywide problem versus isolated instances and the problembeing in isolated areas,” he said.

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Local, state and federal officials have been disputing thesafety of Flint's water for more than a year after it becamecontaminated in April 2014.

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The water crisis seemed to reach a turning point in September2015, however, when a group of doctors from the Hurley MedicalCenter in Flint urged the city to stop using the Flint River fordrinking water after finding high levels of lead in the blood ofchildren. Under the age of six, children are especially vulnerableto lead poisoning, which can affect mental and physicaldevelopment. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

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By October 2015, the city of Flint urged its citizens not todrink the water, and the state ordered the distribution of filters,the testing of water in schools, and the expansion of water andblood testing.

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Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech researcher who was one of thefirst to expose the city's water issue last year, said recentlythat virtually all of Flint should be considered a high-risk zonefor lead in the water, according to an April 12, New YorkTimes report.

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Although Virginia Tech researchers said last week that new watertests showed a decline in the levels of lead contamination and thatthe water system is on a path to recovery, serious problems remainbecause hazardous lead particles could suddenly appear in drinkingwater, according to the New York Times article.

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Merrihew said people are wary about using the water. He alsonoted Flint businesses have posted signs that their water wastested and is safe to use. Some businesses are even posting theirwater test results to assure their customers.

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As the need for bottled water, water filters and water testswill continue, six credit unions in the local area that serve thecity of Flint are donating $50,000 in gift cards to Flint cityresidents who are working with the state to monitor lead levels inthe water in their homes.

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In addition to Security, the donating credit unions were the$671 Dort Credit Union in Grand Blanc, Mich., the $458 millionFinancial Plus Credit Union in Flint Township, Mich., the $391Flint Area Schools Employees Credit Union in Flint Township, the$438 million ELGA Credit Union in Burton, Mich., and the $179million SAGELINK Credit Union in Durland, Mich.

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The $32.2 million FM Financial Credit Union, headquartered inFlint, the $451 Team One Credit Union in Saginaw, Mich., and otherbusinesses helped collect and distribute nearly 16,000 bottles ofwater for families and schools.

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In addition, credit union executives, CEOs and other employeesfrom the Michigan Credit Union League's Flint Chapter of CreditUnions formed a Water Crisis Task Force to determine how they canassist the Flint community.

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“We are still evaluating our short- and long-term goals,identifying the greatest unmet needs and have asked the United Wayto attend an upcoming April meeting,” Olga Long, senior vicepresident of Financial Plus, said. “They will provide excellentinsight and assist us with identifying our next steps.”

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The task force is made up of Flint Area Schools Employees FCU,SAGELINK, Security, Financial Plus, Dort and ELGA.

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Long said some of her credit union's members have been affectedby the water crisis, while Merrihew said none of his credit union'smembers or employees have reported any issues or problems.

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The other credit unions that serve Flint residents are basedoutside of the city limits and serve other surrounding communities.The water crisis has not affected the townships around Flintbecause they get their water from Lake Huron via the Detroit Waterand Sewerage Department.

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“As a credit union founded in Flint more than 60 years ago,Financial Plus Credit Union is deeply saddened by the Flint watercrisis and the impact it is having on children, families, theelderly and local businesses,” Long said. “We understand theseriousness of the crisis and realize the community will needsupport for many years to come. We are committed to being a part ofthe support and to being on the Flint Chapter of Credit Union'sFlint Water Crisis Task Force.”

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Even though she lives about 150 miles away from Flint, the watercrisis touched Rebecca Williams in a personal way.

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Williams, a branch assistant at the $430 million ECCU inKalamazoo, Mich., has a friend who lives in Flint. Through Facebookpostings, Williams learned that her friend's three-year-olddaughter had been in and out of the hospital for a month withseveral infections and high fevers, and even had to have brainsurgery.

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“They said it was linked to the lead in the water,” Williamssaid. “That's what I know so far. It's awful.”

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Williams, a mother herself, wanted to help.

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“I didn't know how else to help the people of Flint other thandonating clean water,” she said. After seeing how cheap bottledwater was at a popular warehouse chain and catching a news storyabout a local company delivering clean water to Flint, Williamsapproached the credit union's Caring Committee to see if they couldhelp.

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Dipping into its annual fund, the Caring Committee purchased 100cases of bottled water and employees loaded the cases on a truckthat delivered the water to Flint.

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“It makes me feel good to be able to help out in some way and towork for an organization that so willingly helps others,” shesaid.

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Other Michigan credit unions, such as the $455 million KelloggCommunity Federal Credit Union in Battle Creek, have worked withother businesses to provide clean water for Flint residents.Kellogg Community donated 7,600 bottles of water and collectedadditional clean water and donations from the community.

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Other credit unions from outside of Michigan also chipped in.For example, the $220 million NuMark Credit Union in Joliet, Ill.,collected 400 cases of bottled water and donated $500.

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