To the editor:

As environmentalists and policymakers look to South Africa's "Zero Day," when Cape Town's city water is predicted to be shut down, some might forget that a community twice the size of Pittsfield — Flint, Mich. — already faced and continues to face a "Zero Day" here in the United States. In an era where with increasingly scarce resources, careful attention can be paid to the long-term aftermath of domestic state-of-emergencies. The lessons learned will be particularly true for local communities that may at some point have little choice but yield control to external crisis management leadership.

Since March 2016, the EPA has not changed its recommendation that Flint residents not drink unfiltered tap water. Clearly, it's difficult to assess the true situation today because of significant delays in reporting. For this reason, first-hand accounts from social justice non-profits like Flint Rising and Corporate Accountability carry significant weight. According to these institutions, the few remaining distribution centers will soon be shut down, leaving people without ready access.

In sum, there is a forgotten drama playing out on American soil that's multi-generational and affecting people's health and emotional and economic well-being. The lead actor is an ingredient that is essential for everyone's life: water. One option for current and future civic leaders at this time would be lend their creativity, cooperation and if possible charity on a city-to-city basis.

Jack Whitacre,


The writer is a Ph.D. fellow at UMass-Boston.