James is officially a Canadian...visitor!
It's been 15 days since Mission Clean Water began, and James can already cross 3 states and 2 countries off his walk's list of checkpoints. He's even made an appearance on WIVB, Buffalo, NY's local news station. For the next several days, he will be tackling 200 miles of the Canadian coast along Lake Erie.
Once he makes it back into U.S. territory, he will be stopping in Flint, Michigan, volunteering with a local organization dedicated to fixing the horrible water issues you've likely heard about over the past several years. Shamefully, it's still a pressing issue for the city, with many residents still unable to use water out of their taps without an advanced filtration system in place. To make matters worse, some Flint residents, as of May 2017, were even facing threats that the City Council would claim their homes as a result of unpaid water bills—for water still contaminated with lead—which thankfully fell through due to the potential national outcry.
It's a sad fact that many cities in our own country struggle with access to clean water, an issue many often only associate with foreign countries such as Tanzania, the country that's serving as the focal point of James' campaign. Along with his journey so far, James has already encountered several towns experiencing water hazardous issues. Here are a couple of James' stories with these areas:
So I just got into a long conversation with a guy living in Bradford County PA outside a small town called East Smithfield.
He said he didn't understand why I was doing this because there are enough issues with water locally. In this area, it all has to do with Chesapeake Gas and natural gas. They have laid miles of pipeline in this area turning the forests to look like veins. He used to work for them, making 70k in 6 months.
From the Smithfield resident: "They don't care what happens to the locals as long as they are making money. Everyone has cancer, no one has jobs, no one has clean water, and no one knows what to do about it. My well used to give clear water but now it's all murky brown and can be lit on fire from methane. Once they set the pipes, they left. Leaving the locals with nothing besides ruined soil, scattered forests, and undrinkable water. They use 7.5 million gallons of water a day leaving. Toning for use. They will use that water if there is a drought, they don't care about the locals."
So when I was in Wyoming County, NY, I was trying to get water from someone's house since I didn't want to drink from the water jugs so they stayed above 5 gallons. Wyoming County is an area covered with large-scale agriculture, and a lot of the houses are very spread out. Since it would be too expensive for a municipality to provide water, everyone had their own well.
I asked the family and they said, "sure but we can only give you half a liter. We have to run an RO (Reverse Osmosis) filter to clean the water and it only gives us about 2-4 gallons of drinking water a day. To wash clothes or shower, we just use the dirty water. RO is used when there is a chemical or heavy metal in the water that a normal filter can't clean. But the issue is that for the best and most expensive RO system. It takes 4 gallons of dirty water to make 1 gallon of clean water. Cheaper systems need even more dirty water to create one gallon and filters have to be changed sometime 3-4 times a year."
The chemical that they have to clean out is called bromine. It can be naturally occurring but also comes from agricultural practices. There can be a link, but no one is for sure. Crazy to see that happening in upstate NY.
Horrible. It just goes to show how often we take water access for granted when so many in America deal with this on a day-to-day basis.
Does your town experience water issues? Share your story in the comments.