I heard a knock on the door while I was editing this video about safe water and was handed my first-ever 'boil water' alert. The utility company considered it a precautionary measure"expressing concern about a broken water main nearby and the potential for bacterial contamination in our water. Coincidence? I don't think so.†čOur neighborhood was without safe drinking water for several days"nothing like the years Flint residents suffered. (Some still without water six years later [...]

I heard a knock on the door while I was editing this video about safe water and was handed my first-ever “boil water” alert. The utility company considered it a precautionary measure—expressing concern about a broken water main nearby and the potential for bacterial contamination in our water. Coincidence? I don’t think so.†

Our neighborhood was without safe drinking water for several days—nothing like the years Flint residents suffered. (Some still without water six years later.) But†​when we were given the “all clear” with an accompanying report I did not understand, I knew only that the water flowing from our tap was anything but clear. And the messages shared in this video and in the documentary,†Flint: The Poisoning of an American City, took on new meaning and urgency.†

Our neighborhood was without safe drinking water for several days—nothing like the years Flint residents suffered. (Some still without water six years later.) But when we were given the “all clear” with an accompanying report I did not understand, I knew only that the water flowing from our tap was anything but clear. And the messages shared in this video and in the documentary,†Flint: The Poisoning of an American City, took on new meaning and urgency.†

You think it can’t happen to you, until it does.†

According to Jumana Vasi, former Environmental Program Officer for the C.S. Mott Foundation in Flint during the crisis, public utilities are the last line of defense in delivering clean, safe water. “They are trying to treat problems they didn’t cause,” she says in the attached video,†Safe Water: Learning from Flint.†

While there were many injustices committed against the people of Flint, the source of the water crisis began with the industrial waste and sewage dumped into the Flint River for decades, a situation the Clean Water Act of 1972 was designed to address.†

But legislation designed to protect us means nothing if it is not enforced.

During his 2016 campaign, President Trump promised to scale back environmental regulations to make life easier for businesses and industry. According to a new report issued by the Environmental Law and Policy Center of Chicago (ELPC), noncompliance with the Clean Water Act is on the rise in the Great Lakes region.†

Tapping publicly-available data from the Environmental Protection Agency databases and websites, the ELPC reported alarming statistics for an EPA region that includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio. In a multi-year analysis, the ELPC found shrinking enforcement budgets, declining staff levels, and drops in enforcement with a corresponding rise in noncompliance by industrial polluters. Excluding Michigan data that was not available for measuring compliance, in fiscal year 2019 there were 62% more facilities in “significant noncompliance” with the Clean Water Act than the average number of facilities for fiscal years 2012-2017.†

In addition, during this coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration said in March it will forgo fines or other civil penalties for companies that fail to monitor, report or meet requirements for releasing hazardous pollutants.†

†Are we creating the potential for contaminated waterways in our future?†

The risk is exasperated by climate-driven increases in precipitation that are overloading antiquated sewage systems and increasing nutrient runoff.††As a result, “Do Not Drink/Do Not Boil” warnings (boiling does not treat algal contamination) could become more frequent across the Great Lakes region, report scientists in an April 29th†Great Lakes Now report.†

If we don’t learn from Flint, we risk living its nightmare. It is why water and climate change must be part of the political debate this year.†In gratitude to those contributing to this video:Rev. Katherine Culpepper, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, National Response TeamLana Pollack, 12-year President Michigan Environmental Council, 12-year Michigan State Senator, former U.S. Chair of International Joint CommissionJumana Vasi, JVasi Consulting, Environmental Justice and Water Policy Strategist, Vice Chair, River Network, Trustee Americana Foundation, former Program Officer C.S. Mott Foundation Environmental Program
Presbyterian USA. “Flint: The Poisoning of an American City.” 2019. A documentary available on Amazon Prime.†