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Flint water samples
Water samples from 2015 show a range of contamination in tap water from Flint, Mich. ( 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:

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.

Update for 5:30 p.m. PT July 12: Mari Copeny, a 10-year-old Flint resident better known as “Little Miss Flint,” says her team has been working with Musk on the best course of action for improving the city’s water quality. And Flint Mayor Karen Weaver wants to work with him as well:

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