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Clean Water is thrilled to offer Chelsea GreenRoots Youth Crew our Clean Water Youth Leadership Award award at our 25th Annual Fall Celebration for their exemplary community outreach in Chelsea, MA related to lead service line replacement. In anticipation of The City of Chelsea beginning fully-funded lead service line replacement, Adela, Fernando, Fredy, and Giselle started going door to door to help residents identify their water service lines, learn how to reduce their exposure to lead, and inform them of the free lead service line replacement plan.

Getting the lead out of our water can be complicated. Aging lead services line often corrode and leech into our water at rates that fall underneath mandated federal action, but well-above zero parts per billion, the safest level of lead in water. Coupled with the lack of accurate information about where lead lines are located, and the fact that cities are not legally required to replace lead service lines on private property, the varied and complex challenges around eliminating lead in drinking water become obvious.

Despite these challenges, there are cities in Massachusetts leading the way and setting a new standard for drinking water and public health. Chelsea Massachusetts is one such community. This year, the City of Chelsea committed to covering the full cost of lead service lines - starting construction in some of the lowest income neighborhoods. This is the commitment necessary to guarantee that everyone - regardless of race, income, or country of origin -  can trust the safety of their local water. Unfortunately, children of color across the country are shown to have higher levels of lead in their blood. This might be explained by the number of lead service lines located in environmental justice neighborhoods as well as the fact that outreach materials and efforts are only provided in English. Additionally, the increasingly aggressive tactics of immigration police have resulted in a noticeable decrease of participation in social services and community improvement efforts within immigrant communities.

The absence of community trust in this current political climate has a profound impact on which communities receive important information about their health and the resources available to them to protect it. It also highlights the importance of community leadership in all fights for environmental justice.

These community members are an excellent example of what youth led community leadership can look like. By providing residents with a familiar face, and offering outreach materials and conversation in both English and Spanish, this group of young community leaders are providing another essential service that communities of privilege often take for granted: community trust and familiarity. We hope that you’ll join us October 19th in Natick, MA to uplift their hard work! More information about our event is available here.