When Will Black and Brown Communities Gain Access to Clean Water? / by Yessenia Funes

    SimonQ錫濛譙  / Flickr


SimonQ錫濛譙 / Flickr

The issue of clean water isn't a new one. It hit the national airwaves when people caught wind of the lead poisoning going on in Flint, Michigan, but this situation wasn't an anomaly. 

A report the Center for Public Integrity published yesterday (Aug. 21) found that "tens of millions of Americans are drinking contaminated water – particularly in small, low-income and minority communities." Now, I'm not a fan of the word "minority" (I'd much rather "people of color" or, even more clearly, a specific race or ethnicity), but this is the whole premise of environmental justice and of La Calentura.

The story zoomed into Campti, Louisiana, a predominantly Black town whose median household income is just $15,428. Its water system dates back more than 50 years ago, and it shows.

“This water sucks,” said resident Annette Caskey, in the story. “Sometimes it’s got too much chlorine in it, and sometimes it’s got no chlorine at all. It’s like you’re drinking sewage.”

People get sick on and off. That's fucking scary. It's every person of color's worse nightmare. And it's a reality that people of color don't take lightly. Hell, my Salvadoran immigrant mother buys bottled water (which isn't environmentally friendly either, I know) because she doesn't trust tap water. She never has. She rather spend the extra money (and make the extra garbage, about which I'm always complaining) than risk drinking water from a faucet. And she don't make much money to be throwing it away on bottled water every week. 

But the fear poor people of color hold, especially in places like Campti where people are actually getting diarrhea or other gastrointestinal issues, is valid. The air we breathe is already more polluted than our White affluent neighbors. Do we need to sip on dirty water too? No, thank you. 

The issue is complicated though. Fixing entire water systems requires serious funds—money that small towns like Campti (whose population is just over 1,000) don't have. Even larger cities like Flint don't have that kind of money. That's why city residents continue to suffer from the water crisis. Because their city can't afford to replace the water pipes as quickly as it should. More than three years since the crisis began, water continues to run through lead pipes.

The thing about places like Louisiana though is that their tainted water isn't necessarily a result of malevolent representatives and government officials, per se. It's an issue around public infrastructure. When it floods 150 miles east of Campti, in Tallulah, which also has poor water quality, the water becomes more contaminated. States like Louisiana will see flooding grow only more severe as climate change contributes to sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms in the region.

It's an issue that government officials aren't addressing with the urgency required to properly mitigate. Especially with this current White House administration, which barely believes in climate change or cares about non-White people.