SIGNAL HILL, CALIFORNIA — Editor’s note: On April 24, Black Lives Matter: Long Beach, in coalition with a number of Los Angeles organizations, organized a demonstration in front of Veolia North America, a corporate privatizer of water, to bring attention to the water crisis in Flint and connect it with the privatization of water in the Los Angeles Area. Comments below are by one of the rally organizers, Audrena Redmond.
“The City of Flint, Michigan paid Veolia, the largest private operator of municipal water and sewer systems in the U.S., $40,000 to conduct an analysis of its water system. In its report, Veolia said the water was safe. We don’t know why these children have rashes. We don’t know why one of a set of twins is losing weight and deathly ill. We don’t know why that is happening. We don’t know why the people in Flint have developed brittle bones. We don’t know why the people in Flint say they have breathing infections. We don’t know why that is.
“Veolia said, maybe it’s the aesthetics of the water. We can do something about that. We can treat the water so it is the right color. We can treat the water so it doesn’t smell so bad. Notice, no one said anything about the lead in the water coming through the pipes. Irreversible damage is what lead does to all, but especially children, infants, toddlers, and babies in utero who will face a life of physical, emotional and mental health problems.
“I’ll bet you that these same people who thought it was right to switch the water over and not treat it will be the same people who will argue against providing the services these children and adults will need to move forward. And that, my friends, is systemic violence. It all runs in a circle, over and over again.
“And here this company sits, right here in Signal Hill. As a matter of fact, this is one of three offices in the Long Beach area. You’d never know they were here. Look at this (Audrena is pointing to a fence without any name on it), you’d never know this is a transnational company responsible for water treatment throughout the U.S. In fact, they’re being sued by multiple cities now for doing two things: poisoning people and jacking up their water rates.
“You take the city of Pittsburg. They’ve seen their water rates increase by 600% in five years because Veolia has taken over the management of the water services and has told the city the way you raise money is to jack up water rates. The same thing happened in Detroit. Those people were losing their homes because they couldn’t pay for their water. And you know how they got us? Cause we can’t live without water. Veolia lied and people died.
“Veolia is doing dirt right here where we are. In Watts, for example, there is supposedly an Exide Company cleanup. I say ‘supposedly.’ So we’re here today to say to Veolia, ‘We’ve got our eyes on you. We see you. We know you’re here. We will be back.’”