An EPA official received a racially offensive email regarding African-Americans. Fortunately for them, Carlton Waterhouse (pictured), an EPA employee in Miami and father of three, intervened in public office and shut down the site.
One of Miami-Dade’s largest sources of drinking water has been disrupted by a racial incident.
Carlton Waterhouse, a legal service center manager for the EPA Office of Environmental Justice, was listening to a meeting with officials of the city of Miami-Dade and Governor Rick Scott on Monday when he became alarmed. The revelation that residents of James Street, a neighborhood in Miami-Dade, were getting treated water meant to contain dangerous bacteria because the water wasn’t treated was improper and had the potential to damage public health. It also violated Florida’s drinking water standards, Waterhouse explained to The Miami Herald. (The letter received by the city of Miami was just one example of the City and Governor Scott reportedly cooperating to address the issue on Monday.)
As Waterhouse left the meeting, he read the email sent to several EPA staff from an email account belonging to a colleague. It read, “Waterhouse to black [African-American] planet: DAPSE.” The posting referred to the water agency’s EPA Superfund program, the agency’s Environmental Justice program, and the agency’s Real Cost Water Program. The email account belonged to one Rich Thornton, a physician and an EPA executive.
The Huffington Post’s managing editor, Danny Shea, reported on the email’s publication. Shea said an unidentified person emailed the tweet and a reporter followed up with the email.
Waterhouse went to the agency and requested a meeting and sat down with Thornton and asked if he would step down as director of the EPA’s environmental justice office, a position he started in 2013. Thornton refused. At the next meeting, the firing of Thornton was discussed. On Saturday night, according to the Herald, Waterhouse was emailed another racially offensive email. An aide to a Congresswoman alerted him that a number of Trump supporters, concerned that Waterhouse would consider using his official position to prevent water fluoridation in an area of the country that voted for Trump in 2016, sent him the email. The Post published that email on Sunday. In that message, the sender argues that Waterhouse is “scum of the earth.”
“This is nothing more than racism,” Waterhouse said. “There is no question that someone was sending emails with racist language. We’re not doing their job. This is the definition of deplorable behavior.”
“I’m in a never-ending battle with climate change deniers,” Waterhouse said in an interview with the Post. “There is not a day goes by where we don’t face racism or climate change deniers.”
A group of black Democratic lawmakers and representatives from the NAACP have stepped in to provide support to Waterhouse, calling on Governor Scott to fire Thornton for his insensitivity.
“Waterhouse is a true leader for public servants, for the EPA, and for the civil rights community,” Lee Lucas, a vice chair of the NAACP’s Florida chapter, told the Herald. “As more Broward County residents learn what happened, there is no doubt that more leadership is needed at the EPA.”
In the meantime, Waterhouse is taking action. On Sunday night, he was joined by others to fill Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s driveway at the home of the water department director in James Street. Waterhouse, with the help of friends, poured one million glasses of water onto the mailbox.
Waterhouse is optimistic that the city will correct the water problem in James Street in the next four to six weeks. “I know they are addressing the [water department] director’s email, and we will see the fruits of their labor,” he said.
A team of 60 protesters was on the city’s sidewalks Monday night, and Waterhouse stood in one of the circles with pictures of homes on James Street. The group chanted “Water, water, water” while holding up signs with watery poems like “Scum of the Earth” and “Clean Water, Dump Trump.”