In 2014, Flint began pumping water from the Flint River into the homes of Flint’s nearly 100,000 residents. Officials have admitted to not properly treating the water with appropriate corrosion measures, resulting in undrinkable lead-poisoned water.
Michigan’s attorney general has filed charges against six state employees for their roles in the lead contamination crisis in the city of Flint, Mich., reports The Detroit News.
Attorney General Bill Schuette is bringing charges against three employees of the Department of Health and Human Services and three employees of the Department of Environmental Quality, including Liane Shekter Smith, the former municipal water chief and the only state employee to have been fired so far in the wake of the crisis.
President Obama came to Flint, Mich. on May 4 to address the ongoing water crisis in the city, where he gave a rousing speech to an auditorium full of residents.
“Flint’s recovery is everybody’s responsibility,” Obama said in his speech. “And I’m going to make sure that responsibility is met.”
FAITH-BASED COMMUNITIES have been at the forefront of environmental justice work since the phrase first came into use. In 1987, the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice published the report Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. The report—the first of its kind—documented the connection between the siting of hazardous waste sites and the race of the communities where they were located.
For Aaron Mair—an epidemiological-spatial analyst with the New York State Department of Health—environmental justice organizing began in 1984 when he and his family moved to the Arbor Hill neighborhood of Albany, N.Y. The 80-percent-black neighborhood was home to an incinerator that resulted in two of his daughters having upper-respiratory health issues, according to Mair. The neighborhood’s toxic air prompted Mair to begin organizing his community to get the incinerator shut down.
In May 2015, Mair was elected as the first African-American president of the Sierra Club, a national environmental organization with more than 800,000 members. Raven Rakia, a freelance journalist and Grist fellow, interviewed Mair for Sojourners in February.
Raven Rakia: What’s the significance of your becoming the first black president of the Sierra Club?
Aaron Mair: I didn’t start out to make history with the Sierra Club. I started out to make history as an environmental justice activist by elevating the voice of communities of color with regard to equal treatment and protection under the law.
After an eight-year-old girl from Flint, Mich. wrote to President Obama requesting a meeting, a White House official confirmed April 27 that Obama will visit the city on May 4, reports Mlive.
The city has faced a devastating water crisis after it was discovered that the city’s water supply was contaminated by lead. While in Flint, Obama will hear first-hand from residents, be briefed on efforts to address the crisis, and give a speech to residents.