Pipes Photo—safakcakir

The Flint Water Crisis Illuminated by Citizen Science—TNOC Podcast Episode 6

Philip Silva, New York. 
February 29, 2016

Cities are ecosystems of people, nature, and infrastructure.

Also available at iTunes.

Girl drinking Photo—Mikkel BigandtStory notes: Federal regulations make clean drinking something close to a guaranteed right for residents of cities in the United States, but not all urban water systems are created equal. Last year, independent scientists and grassroots activists discovered a widespread problem with lead levels in the water pouring into the city of Flint, Michigan. Though local officials assured the public that Flint’s water supply was safe, independent tests revealed lead levels in the water flowing from some homes that were comparable to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of hazardous waste.

This podcast episode, produced by Philip Silva, explores “citizen science” efforts to uncover the truth about lead levels in Flint’s water supply last year. Philip spoke with LeeAnne Walters, a Flint resident who struggled to make sense of the sudden unexplained illnesses plaguing her family shortly after Flint stopped buying water from the nearby city of Detroit and started pumping water directly from the polluted Flint River. Philip also spoke with Siddartha Roy, a researcher in the Flint Water Study at Virginia Tech, the lab that teamed up with local activists in Flint to independently measure the lead in the municipal water supply.

Pipes Photo—safakcakirThe collaboration between residents like LeeAnne Walters and the scientists at Virginia Tech revealed a municipal water quality crisis that now has cities across the United States scrambling to demonstrate that their water is, indeed, up to Federal standards. The World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate that 884 million people around the world lack access to safe drinking water. Yet most North Americans take for granted that government scientists and regulators are keeping a watchful eye on the quality of water that flows through municipal treatment and supply systems. Philip spoke with Caren Cooper, an expert on citizen science at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, to learn about the role that grassroots researchers often play in uncovering environmental injustices and keeping local regulators accountable.

Philip Silva

New York

On The Nature of Cities

Philip Silva

About the Writer:
Philip Silva

Philip’s work focuses on informal adult learning and participatory action research in social-ecological systems. He is dedicated to exploring nature in all of its urban expressions.

Philip Silva

Philip Silva

TreeKit, Cornell University Ithaca, NY USA Philip Silva is a Ph.D. student in Natural Resources at Cornell University. His work focuses on informal adult learning and participatory action research in social-ecological systems. For the past four years, Silva taught courses in urban forestry, environmental history, and design at The New School. In 2011, Silva was one of 25 national leaders convened by the US Forest Service to participate in the “Vibrant Cities and Urban Forests” task force. He has worked with some of NYC’s leading environmental organizations, including Sustainable South Bronx, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Just Food, and the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. Philip is a recipient of the 2010 iLAB Residency of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature, and Dance (“iLAND”) and a 2009 Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program. He currently serves as co-founder and co-director of TreeKIT, an initiative to measure, map, and collaboratively manage urban forests. A native of Newark, NJ with a graduate degree in urban policy analysis, Silva is dedicated to exploring nature in all of its urban expressions.

One thought on “The Flint Water Crisis Illuminated by Citizen Science—TNOC Podcast Episode 6

  1. There is special power in hearing the voices of those involved. I have been closely following this case for the past 6 months, but I found this, watching the presentation by Virginia Tech students and the recent presentation by Dr. Marc Edwards. Yet somehow this podcast particularly moving! I feel like I know Lee Ann Walters and Sidhartha Roy personally now. Thank you!

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