The Takeaway

No Tap or Toilet: Over One Million Americans Lack Access to Running Water

No Tap or Toilet: Over One Million Americans Lack Access to Running Water

Most Americans take access to water for granted.

Recovering From The Midwest Floods

Last week, an intense winter storm swept the Midwest. The floods that followed were the worst in 50 years. What can farmers do to protect themselves from extreme weather?

New Threat To Felon Voting In Florida

Last November, Floridians voted to give the right to vote back to felons who had served their sentences. But new bills threaten to disenfranchise almost half of of them again.

Is Jordan Peele’s “Us” the First Marxist Horror Film?

Peele tackles race, class, and psycho-doppelgangers from a parallel universe in his follow-up to “Get Out.”


George McGraw

Ken Anderson

Kira Lerner

Valerie Complex

Rafer Guzman

The Takeaway

Banned Books: A Tool For Prison Control

Jan. 09, 2018: Outrage ensued after the ACLU found out that New Jersey had banned a book about mass incarceration. But censorship is a common tool used by officials to control prisoners. The Takeaway has that story, plus a look at President Trump’s latest immigration actions; privacy rights before the Supreme Court; a potential criminal case linked to the Flint water crisis; systemic school problems in Baltimore; and the careers that have been crushed by sexual harassment. 

The Takeaway

Gun Violence on Christmas, Judicial Vacancies for Trump, Drought in California and a Town Without Water

December 28, 2016:

1. John Kerry Rebukes Israeli Criticism (8 min)

2. Understanding Chicago’s Gun Violence  (6 min)

3. Trump Administration Could Have Lasting Impact on Courts  (4 min)

4. Ecological and Political Fallout from California Drought  (4 min)

5. A Water Crisis in the Dallas County Town of Sandbranch  (7 min)

6. First Ladies and First Daughters  (8 min)

7. Ralph Nader Diagnoses the Future of the Progressive Movement (11 min)

The Takeaway

Unstoppable Trump, PTSD and Racism, Damage in Flint

May 04, 2016: 1. What’s Next for The Donald and The #NeverTrump Movement | 2. After Indiana, Is Bernie Back? | 3. The Emotional Toll of the Flint Water Crisis  | 4. Study Links Discrimination With PTSD, Mental Health Issues 

The Takeaway

Activist Engineers: The Solution to America’s Water Crisis?

Click on the audio player above to hear this interview.

A 2013 report done by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s water infrastructure a D+. The group estimated that most of the pipes that supply drinking water to the population will no longer be viable in the near future. The American Water Works Association suggests that the cost to replace those pipes could reach more than $1 trillion. 

“In a way, we ought to look at it as a canary in the coal mine for the entire infrastructure for this country,” says Tom Loughlin, executive director of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

He says that the situation in Flint, Michigan should be a learning lesson, not a political one. He’s says the next generation of engineers should undertake an activist approach to find solutions that improve the quality of life and prevent disasters with drinking water infrastructure.

The Takeaway

Coal Country Wrestles With Hazardous Water in West Virginia

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Prenter, West Virginia is a small community about 30 miles south of Charleston, the state’s capitol.

Today, the majority of households in Prenter are on the municipal water supply coming out of the Elk River, but it wasn’t always that way. 

In 2007, Jennifer Hall-Massey attended a community meeting for residents interested in municipal water. For the first time, people began to realize they had much more in common than just well water.

Six of Jennifer’s neighbors in a ten house span had brain tumors, all but two have died, including Jennifer’s younger brother. Dental problems, fertility issues, skin irritation, asthma, it didn’t take long to connect the dots and discover toxic levels of chemical contaminants in the tap water. When asked to reflect on the string of illnesses in her family, Jennifer said: “Sometimes, when we’re faced with illness, we’re more focused on how to fix it, how to overcome it, and not necessarily the cause.” 

The cause? Contaminated ponds. The local coal industry had used these natural bodies of water a dumping grounds, and toxins seeped into the groundwater. 

Here, Jennifer shares her story, and explains the financial hold the coal industry has on West Virginia.  

What you’ll learn from this segment:

How contaminated water has impacted Jennifer’s family. 
What the coal industry has said about the community’s health problems.
The advice Jennifer has for residents of Flint, Michigan.

The Takeaway

The Flint Water Crisis: The EPA Responds

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There’s a complicated web of laws and regulations governing and protecting water in the United States.

You might be surprised to know that the Clean Water Act—the primary law which governs water pollution in the U.S.—does not directly address groundwater contamination. Groundwater contamination actually falls under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies drinking water and infrastructure needs across the country, but state agencies are the first responders when it comes to concerns over the quality of drinking water in towns and communities.

We’ve seen this play out in Flint, Michigan. In the case of Flint, local leaders and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality were slow to take responsibility for contamination of the city’s water. The EPA eventually stepped in. The crisis has led to a series of resignations, though the fallout is far from over. 

Joel Beauvais is the deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Here, Joel explains how oversight and regulation work at the EPA, and who you should call if you have a water crisis. 

What you’ll learn from this segment:

How the EPA sets water standards.
The role of the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.
What the government is doing about the crisis in Flint.

The Takeaway

A Human Right? Detroit Cuts off Water to Thousands

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About 18 months ago, when the city of Flint started pumping toxic water into homes and businesses, the city of Detroit—just 70 miles down the road—was beginning widespread water shutoffs to tens of thousands of households with delinquent accounts.

Maureen Taylor is state chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, where she advocates for the poor and helps them navigate Metropolitan Detroit agencies. She says that access to clean water should be a basic human right—a battle she’s lost in Detroit.

The Takeaway

Unquenchable: Why America’s Water is Under Threat

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For the most part, Americans have been fortunate when it comes to water security. We live under the assumption that water is cheap, pure, and plentiful. But how true is that? 

That idea has been tested over the last several years. The American West has suffered a tremendous drought, provoking regulation and mass water conservation efforts, primarily in California. During it’s bankruptcy, residents of Detroit, Michigan, had their taps shutoff if they were were unable to pay outstanding water bills, something that prompted the United Nations to call water a “fundamental human right in Detroit.” 

This fall, national attention turned to Flint, Michigan, where a change in the municipal water supply caused a massive lead contamination crisis, the impact of which will likely be felt for years to come. Flint is only the latest in a long line of tragic stories. Families in North Carolina, West Virginia, and Ohio also understand the pain of contamination, which has been linked to pollution from coal mining and other industries where toxins haven’t been properly regulated or regulations have been overlooked. 

Robert Glennon is a Regents’ Professor at the University of Arizona and author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It.” Glennon argues that the United States needs to change our water strategy before it’s too late. 

What you’ll learn from this segment:

What’s threatening American water.
Why Glennon believes America has a water crisis.
What solutions are currently available. 

The Takeaway

A Small Town’s Advice for a Big City’s Plastic Water Bottle Ban

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The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has led to questions about our country’s water supply. Scientists and officials tell us that most of our piping systems provide safe drinking water, and yet as a nation we still consume more bottled water than any other country in the world.

See Also: Clean Water: America’s Next Civil Rights Battle?

Americans buy about 500 million plastic bottles of water every week, many of which end up in landfills. San Francisco is looking to buck the trend and recently banned the sale of single-use plastic water bottles on city-owned property. By October, the ban will be broadened to include events held outdoors on city property, and by January 2018, it will be extended further to include large-scale events of 250,000 people or more.

San Francisco is following the lead of Concord, a small town in Massachusetts. In April 2012, Concord residents voted to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles, and the measure went into effect in 2013. San Francisco’s ban is not as far reaching as Concord’s (retailers in the city will still be able to sell water in plastic bottles in stores), but environmental advocates see it as an important first step. 

Elizabeth Ross, WGBH producer for The Takeaway, shares some of Concord’s advice for San Francisco, or any community that is considering a plastic water bottle ban.

Check out some photos from Elizabeth’s reporting below.

John Cummings, manager of Crosby’s Marketplace in Concord, MA
(Elizabeth Ross)

Granite water fountain retrofitted to accommodate reusable water bottles, Concord, MA.
(Elizabeth Ross)

Jill Appel and Jean Hill, the environmental activists behind Concord’s plastic water bottle ban.
(Elizabeth Ross)