Flint and East Porterville — Equivalent Public Health Risks; Vastly Different Responses

Author: Duf Sundheim
Created: 09 February, 2016
Updated: 16 October, 2022
3 min read

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used her entire closing statement at the January 17 Democratic presidential debate to highlight the lead-poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan’s water supply, a racially-tinged health and public policy disaster that the Democratic front-runner casts as an urgent catastrophe requiring immediate attention.

Clinton’s debate prose sought to shame Michigan’s Republican governor into action to help Flint’s 100,000 residents that have been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water for more than a year. She reportedly said that she had dispatched a top campaign aide to Flint “to see what I could do to help.”

Prominent entertainer Cher, who was born in the rural farm and ranching community of El Centro, California, and today lives in Malibu, donated 15,000 bottles of drinking water to Flint, Michigan. She reportedly became interested in the Flint crisis “a few months ago.” Numerous other film and music celebrities have since piled on, along with other politicians.

Political posturing aside, there’s a stark contrast between Clinton’s outrage and her accusations aimed at Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder compared to the blind eye cast in the direction of California.

In California, millions of poor rural Californians are forced to drink water contaminated by radioactive radon or arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals. Still more drinking water has unhealthy amounts of nitrate, a contaminant that causes fetal birth defects and that enters aquifers from sewage, animal waste, or fertilizer.

In East Porterville, Orange Cove, and a dozen other California towns near Bakersfield, residents of over 1,500 homes with dry wells survive on water trucks and bottled water deliveries that give residents five gallons of water per day per person, less than 3% of the average daily water allowance for other Americans.

Lest we forget, President Obama, Governor Brown, and California U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer all focused past attention on East Porterville. The president even visited the region, proclaiming his help was on the way. Yet federal funding and California’s budget provide sparse funds to help with water and food relief for those impacted in these third-world conditions -- and plans on the books offer real solutions to long-term infrastructure needs and cleanups.

So what we have is a top presidential candidate at the pinnacle of one of the nation’s two political parties, two powerful California senators, and a state government of the same party all failing to address a human catastrophe of major proportions right here in California, even as their party leadership decries the actions of a governor of the opposite political persuasion and call for his removal from office.

Where are candidate Clinton’s aides seeking solutions for the disadvantaged Latino communities of California harmed by unhealthy drinking water supplies, by no water supplies at all and by political inaction? Where are the celebrities and activists of Hollywood, their paparazzi and their fans to cry foul?

Next week I will be going to the Central Valley to see the devastation first hand and learn what can be done. For a complete list of events, go to SundheimforSenate.com/tour.

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It may not be making headlines on the presidential campaign trail or here in California; but the long-term, devastating impact is just as real and requires real action.

Photo Source: LA Times

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