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Tech titan Elon Musk’s latest cause: Checking for unsafe water in Flint, Mich.

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Water samples from 2015 show a range of contamination in tap water from Flint, Mich. (FlintWaterStudy.org Photo)

Elon Musk didn’t even wait to get back from his Asia trip to start a new philanthropic campaign, this time to do something about the contaminated water supply in Flint, Mich.

The genesis of Musk’s involvement with the years-old Flint controversy echoes how he came to build a mini-submarine for the soccer-playing boys trapped in a Thai cave. It all started with a seemingly flip suggestion from comedy writer Cullen Crawford — plus an assist from Don A. Bailey, a Flint native who runs a blockchain consulting firm called Lab Mouse Security.

Bailey asked whether Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, could help out with a water-testing campaign that he already had in the works. Musk immediately took up the cause, even though he had just delivered a mini-sub in Thailand and struck a deal to build a multimillion-dollar battery and car factory for Tesla in China. (That factory is likely to take years to get off the ground.)

Here’s how the plans for Flint unfolded on Twitter:

Elon musk, I promise no one will beat you to the punch if you try to help the people of Flint, Michigan

— Cullen Crawford (@HelloCullen) July 10, 2018

Already have

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2018

Flint still doesn’t have clean water. See you there next week? We’re working on solutions at @TheFerris_Wheel with @100K_Ideas and @GotchuW 👍🏽 https://t.co/YIe0ungOLI

— Don A. Bailey (@DonAndrewBailey) July 10, 2018

When you’re there next week, are you planning to test water sources for lead?

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2018

We can. There are still reports from citizens that their water is unsafe and we would like to identify potential spread. We’re developing a tech based solution to help! Join us and see if we can come to consensus on a solution.

— Don A. Bailey (@DonAndrewBailey) July 10, 2018

Please lmk results of your water tests

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2018

There is more than lead in the water. People have died from legionnaires disease.

— Tiffany Hayden (@haydentiff) July 10, 2018

There are other issues at play. The city intends to distribute water filtration systems to reduce the effects of the water damage, which isn’t limited to lead. This is a challenging distribution problem that we are helping solve. The clean water issue is bigger than lead.

— Don A. Bailey (@DonAndrewBailey) July 10, 2018

Getting clean water and filters out to citizens is the bigger challenge, and that should be investigated regardless of the state of lead in the water, especially because of the likelihood that we will see similar issues in other financially stressed urban environments.

— Don A. Bailey (@DonAndrewBailey) July 10, 2018

We have two homes now participating in the test thanks to this tweet. Looking for more.

— Don A. Bailey (@DonAndrewBailey) July 10, 2018

Please lmk contamination levels of any kind when you test the water

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2018

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 (@DylanSheaMusic) July 11, 2018

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

Hey #Flint friends, let’s make this happen! If you’re a resident dealing with contaminated water and still paying some of the highest water bills in the country (for years), nows your chance. @elonmusk, could you set up a site or database where people can sign up for this? https://t.co/sEqCZewFQU

— Jonathan Diener (@jonodiener) July 11, 2018

For now, reply to my tweet with ppm & ppb test results & will send someone to install a water filter. Creating email flint@x.com, but I’m in China so that won’t be working until tomorrow.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2018

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?

— Sean Hollister (@StarFire2258) July 11, 2018

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

One suggestion… use local plumbers.

— shplatt (@shplatt) July 11, 2018

Good point. Maybe use non-plumbers with work inspected/approved by pros.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2018

In addition to Flint’s water quality concerns, which are the subject of a court case and a newly published book, the topics of Musk’s tweets today have included SpaceX’s upgraded plans to catch a Falcon 9 rocket nose cone, Twitter’s latest effort to ban bots, the aftermath of the Thai cave drama, Musk’s love of Dunkin’ Donuts and Dungeons & Dragons, and A.I.’s contribution to “fake news.” (“It will happen for sure. Damn,” Musk wrote.)

Some commenters are wondering whether Musk’s attention is too divided. Other commenters are firing back that the critics should just leave Musk alone to do his good works, wherever he finds them.

The good news about Musk’s most recent tweetstorms is that they highlight the search for solutions to the world’s problems. The same can’t be said about some other high-volume, high-profile Twitter users.

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