Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is bringing attention to “environmental justice” in the aftermath of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis.
The disaster in Flint, which is being discussed in a Congressional hearing Wednesday, is not the only public health problem involving lead-tainted water.
Recently, Mississippi state officials notified local authorities in Jackson that 22% of water samples taken from homes in the city last June contained slightly higher amounts of lead than what the federal government deems safe.
That notification from the state came six months after the initial testing took place, The Clarion-Ledger reported, but the water is still deemed safe to drink. Jackson Director of Public Works Kishia Powell told The Clarion-Ledger the city needs to take additional compliance measures with regards to the Safe Drinking Water Act.
“I’m heartened that Jackson city officials are taking the right steps to fix the problem, including repeated testing and openness with the results, so families can stay informed,” Clinton said in a statement. “As the emergency in Flint, Michigan, has made clear, cities and states must treat these situations with the utmost seriousness and do everything in their power to ensure that families — especially children — have access to safe, clean drinking water. We as a nation must make urgent investments to modernize our utilities and infrastructure, to keep families and communities safe and healthy.”
Unsafe levels of lead have also been reported in Sebring, Ohio, a town of roughly 8,000 residents. In that situation as well, months passed between when the state was made aware of the lead levels and the residents were notified of the situation. There is a health advisory for pregnant women and children advising them not to drink the water, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
In Flint, Jackson, and Sebring, corrosive water leached lead from ageing pipes.
“I think every single American should be outraged,” Clinton said of Flint during a Democratic debate in mid-January. “We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state (Rick Snyder – R) acted as though he didn’t really care.”
Clinton, who sent aides to meet with Flint officials last month, is now incorporating the issue more heavily into her campaign, even writing an op-ed for MSNBC on the subject last weekend.
“There are a lot more Flints out there — overwhelmingly low-income communities of colour where pollution, toxic chemicals and staggering neglect adds to families’ burdens,” she wrote. “Environmental justice can’t just be a slogan — it has to be a central goal. Cities are full of lead paint in low-income housing, lead embedded in the very soil from the days of leaded gasoline. Already, African-American children are twice as likely to suffer from asthma as white children — and climate change will put vulnerable populations at even greater risk.”
But at least one political science professor thinks it’s really just a big political ploy for southern minority votes. Clinton is coming off of a historically close win in Iowa over her competitor, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I).
“It is the political thing to do,” Rickey Hill, chairman of the political science department at Jackson State University, told The Clarion-Ledger. “She has declared some months ago that she saw the Southern primary states as being her firewall in the event that Bernie Sanders did well and even won some of these northeastern, mid-western and western primaries … She’s trying to get ahead of Sanders … around these issues involving black lives in urban centres.”
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