Posts Tagged ‘Water Quality’

Equitable Water

Realizing An Equitable Water Future

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to participate as a Peer Reviewer for the US Water Alliance’s report, An Equitable Water Future. The conversation amongst peers was rich, thoughtful and engaging and I am proud of the outcome of the report which explores the impacts of water management on disadvantaged communities, and the opportunities to build more equitable water systems. This is the most comprehensive briefing paper to date on the interconnections between water management and equity. The report identifies the ways in which water issues like affordability and aging infrastructure disproportionately impact vulnerable communities, and highlights the potential to leverage water systems to bring about greater opportunity for all. Through over 100 examples and in-depth case studies, the report spotlights the promising work being done around the country to ensure that all people have access to safe, clean water; benefit from water infrastructure investments; and are resilient in the face of a changing climate.

An Equitable Water Future provides a framework for all stakeholders to understand their role in making our water systems more inclusive. We hope that you will share the report with your networks! The full paper is available online here.

Take a read and let me know what you think.

Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC an environmental consulting, urban planning and public engagement firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

world-water-day

The Thirst Is Real

world-water-day

A water drop. Copyright: Michael Melgar, license: GNU FDL

After a long day at work, a good workout at the gym, or just a walk in the sizzling summer sun our personal need for water is even greater. Imagine turning on the faucet and tap-tap there is nothing there or that water coming from the faucet isn’t safe to drink. There is no bottled water to get you by, no water fountain to fill the gap. Water, like the air we breathe, is a precious natural resource. It is necessary to sustain life and, although it covers much of the earth, is also in short supply for those that need it most. According to a United Nations Report, 783 million people lack access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. Take a second to imagine that situation: no water to drink, bathe in, cook with, or use for luxury purposes like washing the car or watering the lawn. Water quality and quantity are a global challenge.

Water issues are everywhere. Even in a country like the United States, where we seem to take water for granted, there are people who lack access to clean water due to lack of infrastructure and pollution. These issues are even more pervasive in developing nations and areas where there are population explosions. The already inadequate infrastructure cannot keep up with the demands on the system. Water pollution abounds from agricultural, human, and industrial sources. We have seen these examples in communities in Michigan, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas to name a few. In addition to water quality, climate change adds to an ever-increasing water scarcity by causing water to evaporate more quickly.

Human thirst for water is real and so must be the solutions to combat this crisis. Because there is a limited supply, we must focus on having clean sources of water. No one should lack access to clean water. There are actions that we can take individually such as conserving water and reducing our own pollution; but, there are other actions that take a collective broader approach. These actions can include:

  • finding ways to decrease agricultural runoff to reduce sediment, bacteria, fertilizers, and pesticides in waterways;
  • water reuse such as gray water systems;
  • combatting climate change to deal with scarcity issues;
  • using pollution prevention methods and technologies to decrease contamination from industrial sources;
  • sustainable development, which includes low impact development and green infrastructure;
  • and building infrastructure in new places as well as rebuilding crumbling infrastructure.

Until we stand firm and act, hold our representatives responsible, and advocate for clean water at all levels of government, we will witness the devastating consequences of clean water scarcity including disease and death of millions of humans as well as fish and wildlife, rampant hunger, and incidents that impact our security. A few weeks ago, we celebrated World Water Day but our commitment to preserving this natural resource should be daily.


Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC an environmental consulting, urban planning and public engagement firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

homebgimg-feat2

Earth Day is Everyday: The Fight for Environmental Justice in Alabama’s Black Belt

Earth Day is celebrated annually to spread awareness of environmental issues and to show support for

Chanceé Lundy of Nspiregreen (right) pictured with Esther Calhoun (center) and Adam Johnson (left) of the Black Belt Citizens for Health and Justice

Chanceé Lundy of Nspiregreen (right) pictured with Esther Calhoun (center) and Adam Johnson (left) of the Black Belt Citizens for Health and Justice

environmental protection. On this Earth day, I want to bring awareness to vulnerable populations who often find themselves battling Goliath to preserve their quality of life. Man made hazards create environmental injustices that impact people who often don’t have the political clout or financial capital to fight back. A few weeks ago, I had a chance to meet Esther Calhoun, who finds herself thrust into battle with little to no financial resources and few supporters. The Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice operates on a budget of $500 a year; yet, they are determined not to give up the fight.

Her voice began to tremble as she told her story but she was determined to let us know about the environmental injustices her community faced. In spite of great opposition, Esther Calhoun, President of the Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice, continues to lead the fight in what seems like a never ending battle. No, she isn’t from Flint, Michigan, the town that has thrust Environmental Justice into the national spotlight. In fact, her community is far from it. Uniontown, Alabama is a small town in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt (an area known for its rich black topsoil) where nearly 48% of residents live below the poverty level and the population is 88% African American. The town is about a thirty minute drive from my hometown, historic Selma, Alabama on US Highway 80 West. It is also not far from Emelle, Alabama home of the nation’s largest hazardous waste landfill. It’s certainly not a battle that anyone wants but the dumping of coal ash on her community and sewage spray fields that now contaminate a local creek compelled her to act. She describes how the coal ash and smell of sewage are causing health issues in the community and ruining their way of life.

In 2008, the Tennessee Valley Authority had a coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee. The TVA agreed to pay the Alabama Department of Environmental Management $1.00 per ton to send coal ash to Uniontown, Alabama by rail. Coal ash typically contains metals such as mercury, lead, chromium and cadmium; however, the Environmental Protection Agency has not deemed it a hazardous waste. Such a designation which would have not allowed the Arrowhead Landfill in Uniontown to accept the waste. Residents can see the coal ash from their door steps and Ms. Calhoun passionately talks about what it’s doing to their quality of life. Residents claim that it’s causing paint to peel off of their cars and dare not eat food from gardens that have now been contaminated with coal ash. It’s certainly not what people who live in rural Alabama would or should expect. Ms. Calhoun discussed the neuropathy that she now has and new illnesses such as cancer that are plaguing many residents in Uniontown.

Besides coal ash, sewage spray fields were installed, for $4.8 million, as a way to treat sewage. Residents who know the area well were against the idea and just as they suspected the sewage spray fields are not working. The soil in this part of the state is mostly clay therefore impermeable. This has caused the sewage to not percolate in the ground and instead it has created run off into a local creek with possible contamination of the local water supply. The dust from coal ash and now the smell of sewage permeates the air in Uniontown.

These issues are hard for Ms. Calhoun to discuss but I imagine they are even harder for her and her neighbors to live through. To add insult to injury, the Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice are now being sued for $30 Million  by Arrowhead Landfill (the recipient of the coal ash) for libel and slander.

As we’ve witnessed time and time again environmental issues disproportionately impact minority communities. As we commemorate Earth Day, let’s remember to support communities like Uniontown, Alabama, who may not have the political clout or national media attention, but still deserve access to clean air and water. Earth Day is about people who dwell on earth too.

To stay up to date with Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice – join their Facebook page and you can donate via their website.

Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC an environmental consulting, urban planning and public engagement firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

 





BEGIN NOW

TELL US ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING PROJECT!



We would love to help you with your sustainability goals.
GET STARTED