Pittsburgh boil advisory is only a sip of what Flint endures

Written By Amanda Andrews, Co-News Editor

Water safety. It’s not exactly one of the hot-button political issues in amongst ones like gun control versus gun rights, universal versus private healthcare and the merits of environmentalism. Much like its unpopular cousins, infrastructure, bike lanes and public funding, water safety seems like to lack the oomph factor that other more socially-geared problems do.

Pittsburgh received a serious reality check on Sept. 20. A sudden water main break stretched from Carrick in the South Side to the South Hills. Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted that same morning: “Getting updates on massive Penn American water break affecting southern Allegheny County & city of Pittsburgh. Early description is catastrophic in scope.” A boil advisory was subsequently issued, meaning that people were to either boil their water or drink from water bottles to avoid drinking possibly contaminated water.

A water crisis was beset upon the city of Pittsburgh. Tap water couldn’t be trusted. Starbucks in the South Hills were closed. People fled to the comfort of Robinson Mall restaurants just to eat a nice meal.

My tone is sarcastic for a reason. Everyone around me was panicking like this was going to be a doomsday scenario. “When is the boil advisory going to be over?” was a question I heard echoed a lot during the two days it was in effect as if it were an unbearable inconvenience. Something about the attitude struck me wrong as the situation itself reminded me of one only a few states away.

Flint, Michigan has dealt with dangerous, contaminated water for nearly five years. While the EPA has made statements since June 2018 that Flint’s water is safe to drink, residents and even local officials in Flint are unsure whether to trust their conclusions after the deadly effect their contaminated water had on their community .

PBS Frontline reported on Sept. 10 that dozens of related deaths to the water crisis were initially uncounted. The contamination of Flint’s water has been linked to fertility deaths, lead poisoning in children and Legionnaires’ Disease, a deadly form of pneumonia. The images of tan, murky waters spilling from tap faucets for literal years in this community are burned onto these people’s memories all because of negligent mismanagement from their government.

National media has done its fair coverage of the issue, but have we paid enough attention to it? Some people were completely unaware of our own brief water issue in Pittsburgh and consumed contaminated water, which contained infectious bacteria, viruses and parasites . Alternatively, some were acting like this was the worst thing to happen when we were only experiencing a taste of what Flint endured over a harrowing five years.

Water safety is not something to disregard, even if it isn’t as spicy as other causes you might care about. We should care about our water. We drink it every day. And we should know other town’s experiences with this issue to better our own water situation.

It’s important to be aware of the fact that this boil advisory has just been another bump along the road, as Pittsburgh has been battling its own lead water crisis since around 2016. But it’s also important to have perspective about our water issue in comparison to others. Dozens in Pittsburgh have not died from our water issues. However, our continued ignorance in these matters, national and local, is the lifeblood of controversy, corruption and ultimately mismanagement.