Does your water taste funny? Does it appear discolored? Odd to ask questions about a clear, tasteless liquid yet dirty drinking water is rising in America. Well, the lead was always in there but maybe we are just starting to notice just how much is legal. Lead may not turn your water red or tingle the tastebuds but it’s important that we begin asking more about this incredibly destructive substance before we are all drinking the Flint. If there’s one thing for sure in America is that we learn and grow with and from our tragedies (except for gun violence which grows out of control). We must locally legislate the lessons from water crises across America at our own local governance levels to ensure safety in our water which fuels our lives.
Federalism is not the most popular means to create a healthy country since it’s divisive amongst many different municipalities. Yet, it is a perfect way to ensure the EPA standards on clean drinking water are adhered to by our local government. Since the Flint water crisis flashed across our screens in 2014, their local governments enacted progressive legislative reform to ensure water safety. Their insistence on local Water System Advisory Councils for every 50,000 customers can be replicated for cities and towns. In big cities, it can be divided amongst wards, parishes, and neighborhoods. For instance, in Chicago, three wards could combine to create a WSAC (wards generally have 20,000 residents). In a smaller city like Ann Arbor, Michigan with a population of 121,000, they could create just two WSACs. The WSACs must be the first responder team for any water issues with a direct line to the state and national EPA from the findings of water safety tests. The WSACs should have quarterly meetings with the public, state EPA commissioners and any Water Reclamation Districts affecting their water supply. An important piece of this solution is that politicians cannot be on the councils. It’s a council of the people, for the people and by the people.
Who tests the water anyway? A Guardian report found Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation Districts employees tested their own home water and bypassed it as official water screenings. Locals must avoid this by insisting on a balanced mixture of homes from each side of the municipality. Generally, we will commit to the north, west, south and east sides of a jurisdiction. Water quality is different in different parts of municipalities as studies have shown. Since only 10% of homes are surveyed for water wellness, municipalities must increase this to 25%. Diversity in water testing will provide scientific data presenting the biggest picture possible for safety. You need to know what is happening right next door.
Lead water in the schools is a horrendous oversimplification of a crisis. From Chicago to L.A. and everywhere in between, school children are subjected to lead water that defies the object of education. How can you learn in a poisoned classroom? Municipalities must create WSACs just for the school districts. These school councils will focus upon just that one element, water. They, like the other WSACs, will have a direct connection of information sharing to other municipal councils, the state, and the national EPA. It cannot be stressed enough that schools must have clean water. If you wait for the mayor or the city/village council to act, learning disabilities is all that will flourish.
We the People must take an active initiative to make our water safe. Let’s learn from yesterday and begin a safer and cleaner drinkable tomorrow.