The Sustainability and Environmental Education Club held a Water Justice Forum in Belk Library on Monday featuring two guest speakers specializing in water supply contamination and its effect on communities.
Laura England, the faculty advisor for the club, said that the water crisis in Flint is what inspired the organization of the forum and was a major theme throughout the presentation.
“Sustainability students came to us wanting to know more about what was going on [in Flint] and what we could do to help the situation,” England said. “The Sustainability and Environmental Education Club was trying to think about what we could do that makes sense for a university setting and have a lasting impact on the issue, so we decided to hold a community forum.”
The first speaker of the night was Kelsey Pieper, a USDA and NIFA fellow at Virginia Tech, who gave a presentation on her experience helping the community of Flint during their water crisis and testing well water in rural counties of North Carolina.
“It is a basic human right to have access to clean, safe drinking water, both in quality and quantity, regardless of gender, income, race or other factors,” Pieper said. “There are a lot of different water injustice issues that are being exposed, and now that Flint has occurred there is a new platform to talk about water issues.”
Katie Hicks, the associate director of Water for North Carolina, said there are water issues occurring across the state but she is most concerned with how poor and minority communities are disproportionately affected.
Hicks said that population growth in the state could bring its own problems in regards to water issues.
“As the population grows, communities are struggling more to make sure there’s enough water and that it’s clean because more and more people are moving to the state and people are finding unique challenges as they spread out from the cities,” Hicks said.
England said the purpose of the forum was to help students learn about water issues facing various communities through experts’ firsthand experiences with them.
“We wanted them to understand these issues better and to present them with role models who have engaged with these issues in a direct and substantial way to see that maybe this is something that they can engage with in a career or just as a concerned citizen,” England said.