The company has already donated 9,200 bottles to Flint. After reading about how the city’s water crisis affected its public schools, JUST’s CEO, Ira Laufer, decided the donations were simply necessary.
“This just makes sense for us to do,” Laufer told MLive. “After reading more about [Flint’s] challenges and the mayor objecting to pulling bottled water from the schools, we thought, ‘Let’s help these kids.’”
Will and Jaden Smith founded JUST in 2015 to provide a green alternative to plastic bottles and to invest in communities. JUST’s bottles are 82 percent plant-based, and the company has initiated long-term investments in Glen Falls, New York, the city where the water is sourced.
The Flint water crisis became a national topic in 2014 after city officials began using the Flint River as the town’s main water source. The city’s pipes were dangerously corroded, and they polluted the water with dangerously high levels of lead. In one study, the Environmental Protection Agency found lead levels in the city’s water to be as high as 397 parts per billion, far above the federal limit of 15 ppb.
Several city officials have been charged with involuntary manslaughter after at least 12 people died from a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak linked to the environmental catastrophe. The disease, a form of pneumonia, is spread by bacteria that can be found in drinking water.
Today, Flint’s government has set up water bottle distribution stations to supply communities without access to clean water until lead levels return to EPA-approved limits.
In 2017, the EPA awarded Flint a $100 million grant to begin replacing its water pipes. Completion is slated for 2020.