A top environmental award recognized the efforts of Lee Anee Walters, a resident of Flint who worked tirelessly to uncover the lead contamination of Michigan's water supply. The award comes almost four years after the beginning of the crisis ̵
Since its founding in 1989, the annual San Francisco-based Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots activists for their work to protect the planet's winners per area of the world. Walters was announced on Monday as a winner for the North American region, recognizing how their "tenacity" led local, state and federal agencies to take action.
Walters, who was trained as a medical assistant, began investigating lead exposure after the city finally tested the water supply at the urging of residents in February 2015. She found that lead levels in water were 104 parts per billion (ppb), an unprecedentedly high rate.
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Walters found out that the city did not implement the necessary anti-corrosion measures to prevent the leaching of lead from pipes into the water supply. She finally knew why her eyelashes had fallen out and her four children showed symptoms of lead contamination; One of her twins was diagnosed with lead poisoning.
While the state authorities insisted that the water was safe, Walters hired the "rogue" regional manager of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Miguel del Toral and Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards
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" Walters methodically tried every postal code in Flint set up a system to ensure the integrity of the tests, working more than 100 hours a week over three weeks and collecting over 800 water samples for an astounding 90 percent response rate "The price recorded in Walter's biography.
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Their research found that at some levels of lead contamination, there are areas that are twice as high as what the EPA considers hazardous waste.
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" Without [Walters] we would not be anywhere, "said Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of paediatrics Flint Hurley Medical Center, which investigated lead levels in Flint's pedigree and provided further evidence of water contamination, said Mother Jones in 2016. "She's at the heart of all that."
Republican Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, stopped in October Water supply to Flint River in 2015 and later apologized for Flint residents' failure in January 2016. The city has not yet fully restored access to potable water, and 12 people have lost access to drinking water as a result of an outbreak of Legionnaires died in connection with the contaminated water.
The state supplied free bottled water by the beginning of this month, as Snyder decided to end the program after water testing for much of the area showed lead levels below federal levels, CNN reported. Some residents are still concerned about the quality of the water supply – for which they pay some of the highest bills in the country.
For all these reasons, Walters continues its grassroots activism. The Water You Fighting For? Group, founded in 2015 by Walters along with activist Melissa Mays, is one of the organizations calling for a rally in Lansing on April 25.
This article was first written by Newsweek
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