Imprisoned PA activist: ‘time to speak’ on water crisis

Arroyo is an environmental activist
imprisoned at the State Correctional Institution–Frackville in Pennsylvania.

On Sept. 19, 21, 24 and 27, prisoners at the State Correctional Institution—Frackville experienced four incidents with respect to the water crisis. Drinking contaminated toxic water, an overwhelming majority of the inmate population experienced bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, sore throats and dizziness. This isn’t and cannot be construed as an isolated incident.

The SCI—Frackville staff passed out bottled spring water after the inmate population had been subjected to drinking the toxic contaminated water for hours, without ever being notified to refrain from consuming the tap water. This is as insidious as it gets!

SCI—Frackville’s administration is acutely aware of the toxic water contamination crisis and has adopted an in-house patterned practice of intentionally failing to notify the inmate population to refrain from drinking tap water until we [the inmates] discover it for ourselves through the effects of diarrhea, vomiting, sore throats, etc.

In general, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections knows it has a water crisis on its hands. The top agencies, like the Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency, know about this “open secret” and have conspired to deliberately ignore most, if not all, of the inmates’ official complaints.

Pennsylvania has received four drinking water violations from the EPA. The underlying problem is money, money and more money.

The DEP expects to receive 30 percent in drinking water grants, split between 30 percent for air and 25 percent for superfund clean up. This leaves us with 43 inspectors, but, to meet the EPA mandates, we need at the least 85 full-time inspectors. This means Pennsylvania inspectors have double the workload, and this has resulted in some systems not being inspected.

Logically, the larger systems get routine inspections, and systems that have chronic problems get inspected, but smaller and rural systems like ours may not be inspected because we are the minority that society doesn’t care about. Persona non grata!

Many Pennsylvania taxpayers would be surprised to know that our infrastructure is older than that of Flint, Mich., with its toxic water crisis. Something is very wrong in our own backyard, and the legislative body wants to keep a tight lid on it. But how long can this secret be contained before we experience an outbreak of the worst kind?

Silence no more: It is time to speak. I could not stress the urgency enough. We need to take action by notifying our Pennsylvania state legislators, make them accountable to the tax paying citizens and highlight Pennsylvania DOC’s water crisis to assist those of us who are cornered and forced to drink toxic, contaminated water across the Pennsylvania state prisons.

There’s no telling how many of us inmates have contracted the waterborne disease polycythemia vera by drinking this toxic contaminated water for years without recourse to medical diagnosis or treatment. The Pennsylvania DOC refuses to test the inmate population, in spite of the ongoing water crisis.

We all know what would happen if the inmate population discovered that they had contracted the disease. Obviously, it wouldn’t be economically feasible for the DOC medical department to pay the cost to treat all the inmates.

If you want to obtain a goal you’ve never obtained, you have to transcend by doing something you’ve never done before. Let’s not procrastinate; let’s unify in solidarity and take action before an outbreak becomes inevitable. There’s no logic to action, afterwards, if we could have avoided the unnecessary catastrophe in the first place.

Let’s govern ourselves in the right direction by contacting and filing complaints to our legislative body, the DEP, EPA and their higher-ups, etc. In the mountains of rejection, you are our yes.

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