In Response to Water Crisis, Brightmoor Students Build Filtration System

The goal is to provide free, clean drinking water to members of their community impacted by shutoffs, lead, and more.

A group of high school students is flattening a patch of dirt next to a modest-looking church in the northwest corner of Detroit. They’re about to move a rain filtration system, think of it like a giant rain barrel with a filter inside that makes the water safe to drink. 

In Detroit more than 11-thousand shut offs have been reported between April and August of this year. Lead and copper has been found in water in schools. Lijay Lately, 16, says these kinds of water issues are what inspired the group to build the rain filtration system.

“We made it because there’s a water crisis around here. Water’s getting shut off. [There’s] bacteria, lead, heavy metals in the water,” says Lately. “If anybody wants to come get their own water when it rains, filtered through, they can come up here and get it.”

Click on the player above to hear WDET’s Laura Herberg talk to students as they build a rain filtration system.

Laura Herberg/WDET
Laura Herberg/WDET

Bart Eddy oversees the Brightmoor Makers group that these students belong to. As part of the program, the teens receive financial compensation for doing things like fixing bikes, building wooden boats, and painting murals. He says working on the rain filtration system has empowered these young people to help their neighbors.

“During the Flint Water Crisis, we were waiting forever for the state Legislature to decide whether they were going to send more bottled water down to Flint or not. We said, basically, forget about that. If this is going to be an issue then we will make our own purified water,” says Eddy.

Rain filtration systems have been around for awhile. Parts are available online for people who want to try to build their own. This particular project received assistance from the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design and the Ross School of Business.

Michael Reid works at the Brightmoor Makerspace and helped the youth put this system together. He says that the project has been a way for the students to develop new skills.

“Through this, they all learned how to do plumbing, how to wire in a battery, how to build with wood,” Reid says. “They learned how filters work. I think the experience of them doing this has been extremely beneficial.”

“For these young women and young men to put something together so the community can get a bottle and fill it up with water, this is what community looks like!” — Maureen Taylor, parent liason

Maureen Taylor works with these students as a parent liaison at Detroit Community High School. She says she’s proud of them.

“They are all aware of this water crisis that’s going on, and the Brightmoor community is part of that,” says Taylor. “For these young women and young men to put something together so the community can get a bottle and fill it up with water, this is what community looks like!”

In addition to this stationary rain filtration system, the Detroit Community High School students have worked on a mobile version. They previously assembled a three-wheeled bicycle with a large water filter and tank attached to it.


  • Laura Herberg

    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.