1. RACISM IN THE WATER
  2. THE “INFLATION REDUCTION ACT” IS NOW LAW. SO, HOW DOES IT HELP BLACK PHILLY?
  3. PHILADELPHIA HAS AN AIR TOXIN PROBLEM. WHAT IS THE CITY GOVERNMENT GOING TO DO TO FIX IT?
  4. Want to end gun violence now? Let’s save Philly block by block
  5. Here are steps Philly could take to cool urban heat islands
  6. The gas prices conversation we should be having
  7. Reclaiming Black land is challenging but not impossible
  8. Black clergy: Churches can sway views on climate crisis
  9. Can old Philadelphia refineries be cleaned up and restored?
  10. Here’s how Black Philadelphia can help in the environmental justice battle
  11. City Launches Environmental Justice Advisory Commission
  12. FIXING THE STRUGGLE SPACE
  13. SOLAR POLICIES ARE FALLING BEHIND – SO, HOW DO WE CATCH UP?
  14. IS PHILLY’S “TAP” WATER PROGRAM WORKING?
  15. Ian Harris
  16. Melissa Ostroff
  17. THE WATER BILLS ARE WAY TOO HIGH
  18. THE KEY TO APPROACHING FRONTLINE COMMUNITIES ON ALL THINGS GREEN
  19. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  20. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  21. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  22. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  23. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  24. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  25. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  26. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  27. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  28. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  29. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  30. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  31. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  32. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  33. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  34. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  35. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  36. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  37. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  38. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  39. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  40. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  41. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  42. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  43. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  44. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  45. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  46. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  47. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  48. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  49. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  50. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  51. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  52. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  53. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  54. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  55. THE NATURE GAP
  56. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  57. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  58. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  59. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  60. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  61. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  62. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  63. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  64. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  65. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  66. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  67. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  68. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  69. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  70. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  71. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  72. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  73. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  74. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  75. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  76. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  77. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  78. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  79. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  80. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  81. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  82. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  83. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  84. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  85. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  86. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  87. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  88. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  89. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  90. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  91. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  92. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  93. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  94. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  95. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  96. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  97. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  98. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  99. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  100. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  101. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  102. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  103. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  104. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  105. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  106. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  107. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  108. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  109. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  110. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  111. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  112. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  113. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  114. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  115. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  116. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  117. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  118. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  119. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  120. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  121. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  122. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  123. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  124. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  125. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  126. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  127. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  128. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  129. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  130. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  131. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  132. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  133. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  134. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  135. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  136. Are You Going to Drink That?
  137. The Origins of ecoWURD
  138. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  139. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  140. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  141. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess
Tuesday, October 4, 2022
  1. RACISM IN THE WATER
  2. THE “INFLATION REDUCTION ACT” IS NOW LAW. SO, HOW DOES IT HELP BLACK PHILLY?
  3. PHILADELPHIA HAS AN AIR TOXIN PROBLEM. WHAT IS THE CITY GOVERNMENT GOING TO DO TO FIX IT?
  4. Want to end gun violence now? Let’s save Philly block by block
  5. Here are steps Philly could take to cool urban heat islands
  6. The gas prices conversation we should be having
  7. Reclaiming Black land is challenging but not impossible
  8. Black clergy: Churches can sway views on climate crisis
  9. Can old Philadelphia refineries be cleaned up and restored?
  10. Here’s how Black Philadelphia can help in the environmental justice battle
  11. City Launches Environmental Justice Advisory Commission
  12. FIXING THE STRUGGLE SPACE
  13. SOLAR POLICIES ARE FALLING BEHIND – SO, HOW DO WE CATCH UP?
  14. IS PHILLY’S “TAP” WATER PROGRAM WORKING?
  15. Ian Harris
  16. Melissa Ostroff
  17. THE WATER BILLS ARE WAY TOO HIGH
  18. THE KEY TO APPROACHING FRONTLINE COMMUNITIES ON ALL THINGS GREEN
  19. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  20. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  21. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  22. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  23. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  24. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  25. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  26. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  27. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  28. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  29. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  30. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  31. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  32. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  33. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  34. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  35. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  36. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  37. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  38. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  39. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  40. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  41. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  42. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  43. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  44. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  45. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  46. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  47. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  48. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  49. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  50. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  51. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  52. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  53. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  54. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  55. THE NATURE GAP
  56. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  57. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  58. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  59. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  60. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  61. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  62. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  63. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  64. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  65. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  66. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  67. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  68. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  69. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  70. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  71. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  72. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  73. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  74. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  75. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  76. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  77. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  78. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  79. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  80. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  81. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  82. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  83. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  84. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  85. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  86. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  87. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  88. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  89. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  90. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  91. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  92. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  93. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  94. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  95. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  96. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  97. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  98. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  99. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  100. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  101. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  102. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  103. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  104. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  105. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  106. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  107. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  108. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  109. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  110. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  111. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  112. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  113. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  114. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  115. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  116. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  117. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  118. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  119. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  120. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  121. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  122. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  123. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  124. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  125. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  126. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  127. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  128. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  129. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  130. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  131. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  132. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  133. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  134. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  135. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  136. Are You Going to Drink That?
  137. The Origins of ecoWURD
  138. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  139. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  140. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  141. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess

Philadelphia’s Lead-in-Water Problem is Worse Than It Knows

By D.L. Chandler | ecoWURD

Water is everywhere in an East Coast river-bank city like Philadelphia. And when it’s that visible, most who live there assume the quality of water they drink is in good shape.

Then again, maybe not.

Philadelphia has water problems, like every other big city. But the quality of the water reaching homes is under scrutiny. For poorer residents, especially those in majority Black neighborhoods, the level of concern forces thorough examination.

The city’s two most recent and authoritative drinking water quality reports might proudly note that the water is safe for consumption. However, could there be underlying factors hinting otherwise?  Is the water really safe?

Philadelphia boasts a deep culinary scene, a large arts community, and home to several storied sports franchises. But it is also a city with a deep historical divide, a place of 1.6 million residents that has long remained one of the most racially and economically segregated places in the nation. Factoring in necessities such as transportation, safe schools, and adequate shopping, something as fundamental as water quality is often overlooked.

TO FLUSH OR NOT TO FLUSH THE PIPES

The city’s 2016 and 2017 Drinking Water Quality Reports are your typical government issue. Images of African Americans and other people of color are sprinkled throughout in an effort to promote the city’s diversity. In both reports, the reader is reminded that “our drinking water quality is better than standards set by the EPA.”

Still, that doesn’t answer a more problematic question: is the water in Black Philly neighborhoods such as Strawberry Mansion, Mantua, Nicetown, Overbrook, and Southwest safe enough to drink?

“At the source, the water is clean, but when it hits the homes that’s another question,” Jerome Shabazz shared with ecoWURD during a brief chat. Shabazz serves as the Executive Director of the Overbrook Environmental and Arts Education Center. A former employee of the Philadelphia Water Department, Shabazz has firsthand knowledge of water treatment facilities. And despite the city’s work to treat H2O based off federal standards, he argues that it’s just not the kind of priority it should be for the city.

And, tragically, as the city’s most distressed residents are busily tackling the day-to-day grind of poverty, it’s not the type of issue that immediately crosses their mind as a priority, either.

WHAT’S LEAD GOT TO DO WITH IT?

If Philly needs a villain to blame, it can easily point to lead.

The nation, at large, did eventually figure out how to prevent lead poisoning. In fact, the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency was the result of century’s worth of mounting concerns over the toxin’s fatal effects. President Nixon (a Republican) signed the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act in 1971, Congress banned it outright in 1976, and new laws throughout the 1980s, 1990s and into the early 2000s added new layers of protection.

But it never figured out how to eliminate all the lead that was left over and still contaminating old cities like Philly to this day.  


The EPA, especially in its current Trumpian state, struggles to address the nation’s lead-in-water issue as best it can. It seems resigned to a wide-brush approach through its “Protect Your Family from Exposures to Lead” landing page. Aging homes make that effort harder: homes built before 1978 will have a high likelihood of lead paint inside the residence.

In the graphic above, nearly 90 percent of American homes built before 1940 contain lead-based paint. Beyond homes, other dangers include contaminated soil besigned by runoff from older leaded gasolines or products that contain lead, lead dust, and drinking water. In 2014, the Safe Drinking Water Act was amended to reduce the maximum allowed amount of lead via pipes, plumbing fittings and fixtures to 0.25 percent. Still, the EPA found that the use of hot water presented a challenge: the metal not only held together older brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures, but it also leaked into the water that flowed from them.

Now imagine that problem compounded by the average age of a Philly home: 93 years, according to the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab. That’s 40 years older than the median age of most American homes.  

A CAUTIONARY TALE

Philly stands out as one of the nation’s more prominent cautionary tales on lead contamination. Indeed, the lead situation is so bad that the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) used it as a case study for a politely worded 2014 briefing on childhood blood lead research.  

And there are lots of lead-driven problems unseen. Take Mantua resident Deniece Jacobs’ experience as a prime example of bad water quality unchecked in impoverished, underserved Philadelphia communities.

Jacobs recalls an incident that occurred at her boyfriend’s home just one street over about five years ago when a waste pipe burst in the home. The city dug up his basement  and uncovered older terra cotta piping — clay pipes that were further interlocked with lead joints.

Jacobs always suspected something was amiss. Many homes in Mantua, a West Philly neighborhood nestled north of Spring Garden Street and East of 40th, were built before 1950. As the city’s 2016 Lead and Drinking Water Report tells it, the chemical element was found typically in homes built before 1950. Citywide.

One year after the discovery of the older piping in her boyfriend’s home, Jacobs noticed the city was back, now working on the main street’s piping and digging up the same terra cotta pipes she witnessed in her boyfriend’s home.

While she was never able confirm it, Jacobs began questioning the quality of her own water. Her son, now eight, began showing signs of attention deficit disorder and was officially diagnosed with the condition in 2017. And since 2010, several scholarly articles and research findings have established links between lead exposure in children and ADD.

“There’s no way in hell by the time the water reaches us that it’s anywhere close to being good for us. But if you can’t afford filters or bottled water, what can anyone really do about it,” Jacobs posed.

To get clearer answers on how the city measures water quality in specific neighborhoods, ecoWURD navigated the massive Philadelphia Water Department staff directory. After dozens of calls, voicemails and transfers to individuals that couldn’t (or wouldn’t) address these and other questions, ecoWURD eventually connected with the department’s General Manager of Public Affairs, Joanne Dahme.

We asked Dahme if the department has collected data that demonstrates a demographic breakdown of water quality from neighborhood to neighborhood. “No such vehicle is yet in place,” Dahme responded, but she did invite us to examine the department’s water quality pages for the most up-to-date information.

When asked if there were rumbles of pushback from citizens – like Jacobs – regarding water quality, Dahme stayed on script. “The findings of the latest water quality report follow the guidelines set by the EPA and the Safe Water Drinking Act.”

WORSE THAN FLINT?

Even with technological advances and renewed awareness, lead in water still raises serious concerns. Studies show the metal diminishes childhood development well into adulthood. In 2016, an investigation by The Guardian examined the water testing methods of 33 American cities and found that Philadelphia’s water department ranked among the worst.

Professor Marc Edwards agrees. Known for discovering the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, Edwards shared in a 2017 Q&A with The Crowd & Cloud that Philadelphia employed “cheats” to lower lead levels in testing before employing corrosion control. Despite denials and pushback, the city has used the same “cheats” – also referred to as “pre-flushing” – to lower the true amounts of lead that would be uncovered had water run through system piping.

That’s when Edwards became aligned with Philadelphia’s lead issue by way of patent attorney Jonathan King.

King’s original interest grew from worries over lead poisoning in his own home. He was horrified to discover that levels of the metal in his water were nearly three times past the EPA-approved level of the contaminant.

So, King – along with Tony Spagnoli – formed the currently-defunct Philly Unleaded project to promote lead testing kits to a wider group of people. Limited resources only allowed them to cover about a hundred people, far less than needed to cast a wider net over the problem. And while lead levels might be lower now than in times past, King believes that with wider testing, higher levels will be uncovered just by volume alone.

King (who is White) believes that much more vulnerable communities of color could benefit the most from a fair testing system and newer efforts to uncover the real truth about Philly’s lead problem. “At the very least, we should expect clean water. We pay for it, people of all demographics expect this to be a safe service and even someone like me had this issue,” King tells ecoWURD.

“What about people in Philadelphia that can’t go to the store to buy testing kits or don’t know how to contact the city to see if they’re subject to lead?”

PRIORITIZING THE WATER

“We have competing interests and priorities,” adds Shabazz. “Our current reality is competing with our historical thought.” As a young boy, he remembers being warned by neighbors not to drink the water at the local parks due to possible lead contamination from the pipes used at the time. Evoking “Separate But Equal,” Shabazz reflects on the 1960’s and ’70’s, when infrastructure in poor Black and Latinx neighborhoods didn’t get the same attention as their White counterparts.


Years later, Philadelphia and other regional jurisdictions began employing the use of what was called “secondary treatment” to the waters that flow from the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. This is how that process is supposed to look …

But, in earlier days, controls and general understanding of how to protect water sources were not in the public domain. Only those who worked in specific industries such as farming and manufacturing had access to that kind of information.

So, the city tackled the issue of improving infrastructure and how industries could collaborate on water health. Left out of that equation were average folks. Most of them Black.

Years later, Black Philadelphians remain the most at risk for bad water, a condition aggravated by high poverty. Families, individuals and children dwell in homes (and schools) that are less modern than their suburban counterparts and slowly gentrifying neighbors. The city can cite numbers and figures without a legal mandate to go above and beyond for its Black residents. But if Black Philadelphians still have to ask “Hey, are you going to drink that?” when they turn on the tap, the journey to inform, enlighten, and engage has only just begun.