February 10, 2017
By Jacqueline Souza
In April 2014, members of the Flint community went to their government to bring something to their attention- the tap water coming out of their sinks and shower heads was severely discolored and odorous. Government officials, Republican governor Rick Snyder, claimed that the water was safe to consume, intentionally downplaying the urgency of the situation.
In the seclusion of his workplace, he and his co-workers drank water out of plastic bottles. They knew.
The situation in Flint sparked national outrage, and while the clamor has died down in the past few months, the citizens of Flint still do not trust the water in their homes. While the situation in Flint may seem unusual, it is not: we see this pattern time and time again across the country. Statistically, whether the issue pertains to water, biohazards, waste, or other toxicities, low-income minority communities are subject to disproportionate levels of environmental injustice; they are cheated out of their health and well-being, as their cities’ infrastructure dilapidates around them.
We’ve seen a similar pattern in our local community: this past month, citizens of multiple Pittsburgh neighborhoods were on a strict water boiling advisory due to a suspected outbreak of giardia. This time, our water supply was deemed safe in less than a week. However, problems with Pittsburgh’s water have existed in majority-black neighborhoods for years. Towns where over fifty percent of the residents are black and the average household incomes are much lower than Pittsburgh’s average are disproportionately exposed to water that has been contaminated by fracking and lead. Flint still does not have clean drinking water, and neither do members of some of our communities here in Pittsburgh.
To read the extended version of this article, be sure to check out the March publication of New People.
Jacqueline Souza is an intern for New People and also studies sociology and journalism at the University of Pittsburgh. She is interested in racial justice, social movements, and U.S. politics.