Miguel Del Toral, whistleblower, was put under what amounted to EPA house arrest.

Retired EPA whistleblower, Miguel Del Toral.

The story of environment injustice, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, began in 2014, when the city switched its drinking water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in a cost-saving move.

Inadequate treatment and testing of the water resulted in a series of major water quality and health dangers for Flint residents that were ignored, overlooked, and discounted by government officials even as the evidence mounted  that the foul-smelling, discolored, and off-tasting water piped into Flint homes for 18 months was causing skin rashes, hair loss, and itchy skin.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission, a state-established body reported that the government response to the Flint crisis was a “result of systemic racism.”

An unsung hero in the story of lead in Flint’s water was an EPA employee, Miguel Del Toral.

Del Toral, now retired, blew the whistle on what was happening in flint, even as officials wanted to deny anything was wrong.

Del Toral was placed under professional house arrest by the EPA.

So, Miguel Del Toral’s response to the action taken by Chicago’s Mayor Lightfoot yesterday is important to take note of.

“It’s great that Mayor Lightfoot has done what none of her predecessors had the courage to do, which is to acknowledge the problem,” said Miguel del Toral, a retired U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official who played a key role in identifying similar threats in Flint, Michigan, and East Chicago, Indiana.

For a hundred years Chicago used lead pipes to get water from Lake Michigan to people’s houses.

No Mayor or Chicago administration before Mayor Lightfoot would even admit the danger let alone take action to remove the lead pipes.

Perhaps in hiding the truth they were acting like Donald Trump in lying about COVID19. Would Daley and Emanuel say they were just trying to avoid panic.

Emanuel came out against an aldermanic plan to raise real estate transfer taxes on expensive homes to start a fund to help pay to replace the city’s huge number of lead water pipes. Emanuel said then that the water was safe and homeowners shouldn’t be used as “ATMs” to pay for the work.

Next year the city will begin replacing lead service lines connecting homes to street mains. It will take years to finish the job.

At last we finally have a Mayor who says it is a job that must be done.

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