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Jackson asks what catastrophes might have been averted had national media outlets stepped in sooner—and why it took so long for the Flint water crisis to become a story worthy of national attention.
He points to a lack of newsroom diversity, a history of national media paying little attention to environmental justice in communities of color, and the tendency to act only after harm has been verified by doctors and scientists—rather than in response to widespread citizen concern.
A 2016 report by the Center for Effective Government determined that children of color made up nearly two-thirds of the 5.7 million children who live within a mile of a toxic facility.
By any measure, its outcomes are pathetic when it comes to environmental justice.
In a joint statement, commissioners Michael Yaki, Roberta Achtenberg and David Kladney said, “This report, in the wake of the mass poisoning of residents in Flint, Michigan, is especially timely…EPA’s Office of Civil Rights has historically acted as a black box for complaints about discriminatory effects of toxic source locations.” The report was timely because it was in Flint that the EPA’s behavior backfired into the worst environmental justice disaster of the Obama era.
The Environmental Protection Agency approved the site in 1979, granting waivers from certain groundwater and liner protections.
Angry residents hired a soil expert who said the groundwater would indeed be contaminated by the waste oil.