Jackson, Mississippi; Flint, Michigan
Six-year-old Charles Wilson V is afraid to drink from the school fountain.
When asked why, he simply answered, “I will die.”
At his home in Jackson, Mississippi, Charles Wilson III, who lost his first son with the same name at a young age, gets bottled water for his family to drink and uses other I boil water for everything.
of Water is back in Jackson After the historic floods, the water treatment plant, whose pumps had already failed, was destroyed, but the Wilson family lost credibility.
“We cried about water for a long time,” said the older Wilson.
almost a year ago headline grabbing shutdownWilson and hundreds of other residents sued the city, saying lead in water was silently poisoning their children.
In early 2020, the city’s water system failed an Environmental Protection Agency inspection, revealing drinking water can host harmful bacteria and parasites.
When a water pipe froze and burst during a winter storm in 2021, residents were without water for a month.and the Boiling advisory remains valid.
Wilson blames contamination for some of his son’s academic and developmental problems.
“They say it contains a small amount of lead. They say it’s fine. No big deal,” he said, but Federal standards say there are no safe levels of lead with drinking water.
So even if the city says the water coming out of his tap is safe, he doesn’t take the chance.
A resident of Flint, Michigan, says he’s right not to believe the continuing water crisis is the result of a supply change in 2014 to cut costs.
“I will never drink that water again,” said Audra Bell.
“The problem, especially with children, is that they are growing up. she said. “It’s all like having a potentially walking time bomb.”
Bell and husband Floyd have raised their grandson Matthew since his mother died when he was very young. High levels of lead were detected when he was a baby.
Consuming lead can affect the heart, kidneys, and nerves. Effects on children’s health include cognitive impairment, behavioral impairment, and even hearing impairment.
Now seven years old, the Bell family watches Matthew struggle through sophomore year. This echoes some of the same problems of little Charles Jackson.
Like Charles, Matthew is kind, curious, and energetic. However, maintaining his focus can seem impossible at times.
Bell knows that clean water can’t easily wash the lead out of his system, but he’s doing everything he can to keep things from getting worse.
Even with new pipes and alternative water sources, the Bells don’t trust the water that comes out of the faucet, making about 10 cases of bottled water a week to cook, brush their teeth, make coffee, and water them and their dogs. I am buying water.
Neighbor Leanne Walters says she does the same.
“I don’t drink that water. We don’t brush our teeth with it. We don’t cook with it. They do nothing to show us that everything is okay.” We never do because we don’t,” she said.
She and her children are still getting rashes that first appeared when the water turned bad, she says.
“My children have had extensive treatment for hand-eye coordination problems and speech disorders because of what happened,” she said.
“When you go to the dentist and the dentist tries to get you to drink water from the tap, they have a panic attack. You have to put it all in a bottle.”
Walters rallied her community to testify to Congress on Flint’s issue. And she still doesn’t believe there was justice or recovery.
Audra Bell echoes that in her advice to Jackson residents. “I’m doing everything I can to keep my family safe.
Legal Action Taken in Flint, Attorney Corey Stern Helps Win $626 million settlement for Flint children Cities, states, and private water companies recognized our role in the crisis.
And that penalty could encourage politicians to do the right thing, he suggests.
But he admits that the initial lack of funding was also important.
“Like Flint, Jackson is a poor community, predominantly a minority, no one’s fault, no massive local investment in infrastructure from the government,” he said. “Like Flint, if you can’t afford to do things right on the front end, you can’t afford to fix them on the back end.”
Instead of focusing on the easy and popular things, he told federal, state, and local politicians that his children would live in the hardest and poorest parts of the community, and from there I called on you to ask yourself what you would need to do if you were to leave.
Michael Reagan, the new Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, acknowledges the long history leading to sudden crises.
“The difference for decades in this country has been the lack of investment in water infrastructure, especially in black and brown communities. It’s essential,” he told CNN while in Jackson this week.
I’m looking forward to him too. “I didn’t get into this situation overnight,” he said of Jackson, adding that nothing is a quick fix. “But he’s working around the clock as quickly as possible to provide some stability to the system.”
He pointed to the new bipartisan infrastructure law and hoped that investment would rebuild trust in the same way that pipes and pumps do.
Maura Aller, an assistant professor of water economics policy at the University of California, Irvine, said new federal funding is sorely needed but won’t be able to fully cover the investment gap.
And more people are at risk than residents of Flint and Jackson, she said.
“The good news is that most of the water system provides safe drinking water, so a large portion of the US population has a reliable water supply,” she said.
“The problem is that about 7% or 8% of water utilities fall behind each year and do not meet EPA national standards. It is equivalent to not having
And when vital water is polluted, the effects spread quickly.
“It makes us sick, my kids get sick,” said Mirambi Ford, Jackson’s mother of five. I don’t even know what to do, so he just cries and there’s nothing I can do.”
Ford grew up in Jackson, has family around, and wants to stay. But that may not be possible.
“I will never give up on my children,” she said. “I’m trying my best not to give up on Jackson, but it seems like it’s becoming unbearable.”
Charles Wilson isn’t going to give up his kids either. When he was young, Wilson, he says, would roam his hallways wondering how to defend his name. He is determined to help this son live his best life, even if government officials let them down.
“What if it was your child, your family, who didn’t have safe water?” he wants to ask the leader.
But it is his child and he will take care of him.
When schools reopen in Jackson, he sends his son to study. Fill the book bag with bottled water.