A water crisis in the national eye has put local government officials under intensified scrutiny and has ignited a country-wide conversation centered on safe chemical levels.
In Flint, MI at least six civil lawsuits have been filed so far seeking compensation for over 30,000 residents who have been exposed to, and have been paying for, a poisoned water supply since 2014. In the most affected regions of the city, over six percent of children have an abnormally high level of lead in their system.
This story has been splattered across headlines for weeks, and rightly so, as it is the duty of the media to hold government officials accountable. Amid the constant coverage, last week TAP into SOMA released information that revealed the presence of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), specifically perflourooctanic acid (PFOA) in some of the water systems of New Jersey. PFOA was described as a “likely carcinogen” in an article by NJ Spotlight. Although here in South Orange the source of the high PFOA levels only accounts for 10 percent of our water supply, in cases like Flint it is unacceptable that in 2016 citizens who pay water bills are not ensured a fundamental human need, and it is important that people demand access to the resources that the government should be providing for them.
It is hard to tell if people would be so concerned about the South Orange water supply if the spotlight wasn’t on Flint right now. In the Flint case, water quality began visibly deteriorating in 2014, and efforts by concerned citizens and activists for government action were thwarted until 2015 when the city started to acknowledge the problem. The Flint water crisis serves as a reminder that people should make sure that government officials have their best interest in mind. It is your duty as a citizen to stay informed about what you’re paying for, and what you are entitled to.
The citizens of Flint who are taking a stand should serve as an example to everyone to be aware and active. The concern over the water here in South Orange shows that people might be a little bit more aware of the potential risk that could exist. Clearly the Flint situation is awful and not defendable in any way, but the awareness it has raised could be positive.