The Detroit News reports that “Elevated blood-lead levels are seen in a higher percentage of children in parts of Grand Rapids, Jackson, Detroit, Saginaw, Muskegon, Holland and several other cities, proof that the scourge of lead has not been eradicated despite decades of public health campaigns and hundreds of millions of dollars spent to find and eliminate it.”
Of over 7,000 children tested in the Highland Park and Hamtramck areas of Detroit in 2014, 13.5 percent tested positive for lead. Among four zip codes in Grand Rapids, one in ten children had lead in their blood. In Adrian and south-central Michigan, more than 12 percent of 640 children tested had positive results.
A city in neighboring Ohio also finds itself in much the same situation as Flint. Residents in Sebring, Ohio, can commiserate with those in Flint, Michigan, considering their water supply has also been contaminated with lead that “exceeds the action level,” according to the state’s EPA. Like Flint, the case of Sebring involving some 8,100 water customers in Sebring, Beloit, Maple Ridge, and parts of Smith Township already has the appearance of criminal negligence and a possible cover-up.
But these cities have it easy compared to the water plight the Navajo people face, and according to Justin Gardner at The Free Thought Project, “no one cares because they’re Native American.”
In the western U.S., water contamination has been a way of life for many tribes. As Brenda Norrell, a news reporter in Indian country, describes, the situation in Navajo nation is “more horrific than in Flint, Michigan.” Since the 1950s, their water has been poisoned by uranium mining to fuel the nuclear industry and the making of atomic bombs for the U.S. military.
Coal mining and coal-fired power plants have added to the mix. The latest assault on Navajo water was carried out by the massive toxic spills into the Animas and San Juan rivers when the EPA recklessly attempted to address the abandoned Gold King mine.Charmaine White Face, from the Native American organization Defenders of the Black Hills, a group active in South Dakota, notes that “in 2015 the Gold King Mine spill was a wake-up call to address dangers of abandoned mines, but there are currently more than 15,000 toxic uranium mines that remain abandoned throughout the US.”
“For more than 50 years,” they White Face added,“many of these hazardous sites have been contaminating the land, air, water, and national monuments such as Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. In addition, “each one of these thousands of abandoned uranium mines is a potential Gold King mine disaster with the greater added threat of radioactive pollution. For the sake of our health, air, land, and water, we can’t let that happen,” Charmaine said.
Though few outside of Indigenous communities know it, 75% of these abandoned mines are on federal and Tribal lands, according to the Free Thought Project. Gardner notes that a bill known as “The Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act,” which was “introduced by Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva, has languished in Congress for two years.”