Flint Water Crisis Offers Lesson to Other Communities
LEBANON, Ind. – One of the women who has played a leading role in bringing international visibility to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., brought her message to Indiana over the weekend.
Melissa Mays, founder of the advocacy group Water You Fighting For, is traveling the country telling people to make sure the water the government is providing is clean and not filled with cancer-causing toxins.
Mays was the keynote speaker at the Greening the Statehouse conference in Boone County. She says in Flint, city officials failed to treat the water with corrosion inhibitors, which would have prevented aging drinking water pipes from leaching toxins into the water.
Some 12,000 children were exposed to excessive amounts of lead because of that.
"What's been done to us has opened the eyes of the rest of the country, and I want people to know that, that I hope you don't go through something where officials made the wrong decision on your water treatment, but it is happening in many different cities across the world," she states.
The Hoosier Environmental Council, which sponsored the event, says Indiana is increasingly becoming aware of its own environmental challenges, including an ongoing lead contamination crisis in East Chicago, a disproportionately large number of coal ash lagoons posing risks to drinking water in low-income urban and rural areas, and not enough oversight from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Mays says two and a half years after the discovery of the water crisis in Flint, residents still don't have clean water, but she says her message to people in other cities is that people can fight back.
"We're all just a bunch of regular people that just happened to find out that we were being poisoned and decided it was time to stand up and fight back,” she states. "And we've actually been able to push back on the government, which is unheard of in most cases."
On Friday the Environmental Protection Agency said Flint will have to treat and test drinking water from a new Lake Huron pipeline for at least three months before providing it to residents.
Mays says in the meantime, Michigan is balking at delivering bottled water to residents who don't have a vehicle to get to sites that have been set up to distribute clean water.