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Imperative Insights: Clean Water Is a Right Not a Privilege

First it was Flint Michigan and now Jackson Mississippi is in the spotlight, but we’ve known for decades that clean water access has been handled like a privilege instead of a human right. The US water crisis remains a health equity issue.  The health and well-being of community members in contaminated areas would drastically improve if drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems were kept up to date to consistently meet all Safe Drinking Water Act standards.

According to the U.S. Water Alliance, over 2,000,000 Americans live without basic access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Unfortunately, many outdated contaminated water infrastructure systems are located in communities of color and impoverished areas.  Thousands of families are being exposed to toxins, and harmful chemicals called “per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances” aka “PFAs” that have the potential to cause liver damage, low birth weight, high cholesterol, and more. Other water contaminants that affect reproductive health and fertility such as lead, arsenic, and perchlorate, can reduce fertility, delay puberty, impair infant neurodevelopment, and can potentially cause cancer.

On the road to our 40th anniversary, we will have 40 “Imperative Insights” on issues that affect Black women and our communities most. Our first in the series, highlights a variety of water infrastructure issues in the West Atlanta area. These interviews were conducted to raise awareness about the negative health and environmental impacts communities of color are forced to endure due to outdated water systems and lack of funding.

We would like to thank Board Member and Co-Founder of West Atlanta Water Alliance (WAWA), Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, Ph.D., MPH, Educational Director for WAWA, Darryl Haddock, and West Atlanta native and water infrastructure advocate, Juanita Wallace, for contributing their expertise and experiences.