If there's a dangerous public health issue that needs fixing, all you have to do is goad Elon Musk on Twitter. The billionaire tech entrepreneur has been called upon time and time again to handle the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, but up until now, Musk has shown little desire to step in.
Then, this week, one Twitter user decided to feed on Musk's ego and his penchant for heroism.
"Hey @elonmusk," Baby D tweeted, "I heard a bunch of people saying there's NO WAY you could help get clean water to Flint, Michigan. Said you wouldn't be capable idk."
Hey @elonmusk I heard a bunch of people saying there's NO WAY you could help get clean water to Flint, Michigan. Said you wouldn't be capable idk— Baby D (@Dbabyshea) July 11, 2018
Never one to back away from a challenge, Musk responded to the transparent dare with enthusiasm.
"Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding," Musk replied.
Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2018
The water crisis in Flint has been raging for the last four years, and despite government intervention, there are still a worrying number of households at risk from lead contamination.
While state officials have declared Flint tap water safe to drink, there are still thousands of lead pipes that remain in the city. In fact, according to an article in The Washington Post from earlier this year, more than 12,000 homes in Flint still have lead pipes that need replacing.
As a result of the whole debacle, Flint residents remain skeptical about the quality of water in their homes, and many continue to rely on bottled water for their everyday needs.
nobody from the city or state has ever directly reached out to me to say "here is the water quality in your home"— tunde olaniran (@tundeolaniran) April 10, 2018
Obviously, Musk has only just promised to fix the problem, so the details are still a bit fuzzy. To start off the process, however, he's asking residents of Flint to test their household's water and determine whether it is over acceptable Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) levels (not FDA levels, as his tweet incorrectly states).
For now, reply to my tweet with ppm & ppb test results & will send someone to install a water filter. Creating email [email protected], but I'm in China so that won't be working until tomorrow.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2018
It all seems too good to be true, prompting one journalist to ask Musk if he was really serious about taking on the challenge.
Hey Elon! Sean Hollister here with CNET. Can you confirm this is 100% real... and any comment on reports that lead levels are generally below federal standard in Flint?— @[email protected] (@StarFire2258) July 11, 2018
Musk replied in the affirmative.
You're right on both counts. Most houses in Flint have safe water, but they've lost faith in govt test results. Some houses are still outliers. Will organize a weekend in Flint to add filters to those houses with issues & hopefully fix perception of those that are actually good.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2018
So far, residents and politicians within the city of Flint seem extremely receptive to Musk's intervention.
"If Mr. Musk is seriously interested in helping Flint, the mayor would be open to speaking with him about our specific needs," a city official said Wednesday.
Anna Clark, a journalist and the author of The Poisoned City - a book about Flint's water crisis - gave her opinion on the matter to Jalopnik.
"[Musk could be] a real champion nationwide to get people excited about investing in this usually invisible infrastructure that, in one way or another, ties us all together, that does right by our national resources and all the people in our communities," she said, "I think that would be tremendous."