March 21 2016

In a civilized country, access to safe drinking water shouldn’t be a luxury. It’s a necessity as the foundation of a healthy life.

The lead water crisis in Flint, Mich., should never happen in any community. But we are all Flint.

Incredibly in 2016, more than 1 million Californians lack reliable access to safe drinking water.

In the eastern Coachella Valley in Southern California, families in the poorest neighborhoods struggle with contaminated well water. In the San Joaquin Valley, uranium, a key ingredient for nuclear plants and atom bombs, has been detected in drinking water. Some farm schools are being forced to buy bottled water because the drinking fountains are off-limits. For example, Waukena Elementary School in Tulare County was spending $10,000 a year on bottled water, money that would have bought a lot of books. To make matters worse, an Associated Press investigation found that authorities are doing little to inform the public about the risk.

These crises are shocking, but in some ways not surprising. In Flint, 57 percent of residents are African American and more than 41 percent of residents are poor. In the eastern Coachella Valley, 99 percent of residents are Latino. The San Joaquin Valley consistently ranks among the nation’s most impoverished areas.

See a pattern? People of color and families with very little money have virtually no power and they are concentrated in neighborhoods with both natural and man-made environmental conditions that endanger health. We have devalued their lives.

The symptom is unsafe drinking water, but the real illness is injustice.  Click here to continue reading the piece in its entirety on Sacbee.com

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