Report: Water Pollution Laws Poorly Enforced in Communities of Color

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Low-income communities of color — such as Flint or Newark, New Jersey — are much more likely than white, more affluent towns to suffer with polluted water for years, according to a new report.

The study, called Watered Down Justice, analyzed Environmental Protection Agency data for 200,000 violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Report co-author and Director of Science and Data at the Natural Resources Defense Council Kristi Pullen Fedinick says states are neglecting Black and brown communities.



"You know, some of it is the voices being ignored," says Pullen Fedinick. "I think some of it is disinvestment in communities — infrastructure disinvestment. It could be industries and jobs leaving areas. There are a number of factors that are outside of just drinking water that have led to the crisis happening in Flint."

The study found that local authorities and state regulators are failing to address and report pollution violations, especially in crowded towns with many low-income people of color and non-native English speakers.



Pullen Fedinick notes that toxics in the water have serious consequences for the families who must use it for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

"The cost of that to human health could include things like cancer, compromised fertility, developmental effects, serious infections and more," says Pullen Fedinick.

The report suggests that Congress and states step up enforcement and prosecutions, increase inspections at industrial sites to prevent pollution from occurring, and invest much more money in community water systems so they can afford to make necessary upgrades and repairs.

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