Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Inequities fueled Flint water crisis, omitted in Waukesha water discussion

Today's Waukesha Freeman (no link available) is carrying a long Detroit Free Press story:
How race, class set the stage for Flint water crisis 
The story explores how social and racial inequities helped create the poisoning of Flint, Michigan's water supply, and have led to more environmental injustice and health hazards in lower-income and heavily-minority cities nationally:
What happened in Flint is among the most egregious examples of government's failure to protect its people, said Mark Smaller, a psychoanalyst in Saugatuck and president of the American Psychoanalytic Association... 
"It's pretty unfortunate that we've come to expect that government is not looking out for people in these communities whether it's a community like Flint or Detroit or other similar communities made up of people of color and of a certain socioeconomic level," Smaller said... 
"The connection needs to be made that Flint is not just an aberration, as horrible as it is," [University of Maryland expert Michael] Reisch said. 
But the Freeman failed to add useful and relevant local and regional data and commentary to the story - - newsrooms 'localize' such stories all the time - - so did not report that the relatively wealthier and whiter City of Waukesha wants to return diverted Great Lakes water to Lake Michigan as treated wastewater via the Root River through the relatively less wealthy and white City of Racine and that city's harbor. 

It is a plan that would make Waukesha the flusher and Racine the flush, so to speak - - and is why Racine officials are worried about the diversion-and-return-flow plan, and why state legislator Cory Mason and other officials in Racine object to their city becoming Waukesha's toilet

So let's track down some of the numbers which the Freeman could have published and explored with both local officials and residents, and their Racine counterparts:

While the cities of Waukesha and Racine have roughly the same number of residents, it is Racine that has a significantly larger percentage of lower-income and minority residents, according to this federal census data comparing the two cities side-by-side.

 For simplicity's sake, I have extracted and rounded these comparisons:

Population: Racine, 78,000; Waukesha 71,500.
Percentage, while only: Racine, 62%; Waukesha 88%.

Percentage, Black or Africa-American only: Racine, 23%; Waukesha, 2%.

Percentage Hispanic or Latino only: Racine, 21%; Waukesha 12%.

Median household income: Racine, $40,000; Waukesha $58,000.

Median value of  owner-occupied housing units: Racine, $115,000; Waukesha $194,000.

Percentage in poverty: Racine 22%, Waukesha, 12%.


Also relevant to this discussion: who should bear the cost of monitoring water quality in the Root River if it were to pass through Racine carrying millions of gallons of Waukesha's treated wastewater everyday?

A leading Racine city official has recently said the cost should permanently fall to Waukesha if the diversion plan is implemented.

Bottom line: How would official Waukesha be reacting if Racine said wanted to send its treated wastewater everyday to the Fox River as it runs through Waukesha?

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