Environment | Opinion

Gina McCarthy: Flint water crisis puts attention on justice issues

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks at the National Congress of American Indians executive council winter session in Washington, D.C., on February 22, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com

Administrator Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency faced fire over the Gold King Mine disaster that polluted the waters of three tribes in Colorado and New Mexico. She will be testifying this week on a related crisis: the lead water contamination in Flint, Michigan:
More than 40 percent of Flint residents live in poverty. While the contours of Flint’s water crisis are unique, the underlying circumstances that led to it, sadly, are not.

As a country, we have a long history of disinvestment in such communities, which the Obama administration has been working to address. We call them environmental justice communities. Not only are these populations more vulnerable to the health effects of pollution, but they also lack the tools and resources to do something about it. That’s what stacks the deck against cities such as Flint. That’s what creates an environment where a crisis such as this can happen.

Across the United States, water infrastructure is aging, antiquated and severely underfunded — particularly in low-income communities. This threatens citizens’ access to safe drinking water — an essential for every human being on Earth.

When state and city budgets get slashed, funding for environmental programs is too often the first to suffer. A 2014 study in the Journal of Environmental Health found that more than a third of local health departments across the United States had reduced or eliminated environment-specific services from the prior fiscal year for budgetary reasons.

Get the Story:
Gina McCarthy: Michigan evaded the EPA on Flint. We can’t let that happen elsewhere. (The Washington Post 3/15)

Also Today:
Former E.P.A. Official to Defend Handling of Flint Water Crisis (The New York Times 3/15)
Recall Effort in Michigan Intensifies Pressure on Gov. Rick Snyder (The New York Times 3/13)

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Notices:

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