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City Heights Youth Aims To Raise Awareness Of Drinking Water Quality

12-year-old Sully Jenkins puts up a flyer in City Heights, highlighting the impact of unsafe drinking water on low-income communities. Photographed on June 21st, 2021.
Nicholas McVicker
12-year-old Sully Jenkins puts up a flyer in City Heights, highlighting the impact of unsafe drinking water on low-income communities. Photographed on June 21st, 2021.

Sully Jenkins remembers when his elementary school began handing out bottled water, after it was determined the tap water was no longer safe to drink.

“For the longest time, we had to drink from water bottles, like half the year, we couldn’t drink from the fountains, just because it was really unsafe, the amount of lead,” he said.

City Heights Youth Aims To Raise Awareness Of Drinking Water Quality
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler

So when it came time to do group projects this year, the 12-year-old looked forward to looking into the issue of drinking water. And when he looked closely, he didn’t like what he saw. Specifically, how common lead is in school drinking water.

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“I was surprised at first, but I realized as I searched, some other places, had the same problem,” he said. “My other school had the same problem. So as I searched, I realized after not that long, that this isn’t good, but it’s normal. It shouldn’t be, but it’s normal.“

So Jenkins created a Youtube video and a Change.org petition, to raise awareness of what’s happening with drinking water in low-income communities, and the danger that contaminants like lead present.

Jenkins has already shown the video to the San Diego City Council and has taken his research to the streets, tacking up flyers across the neighborhood to raise awareness.

He says the solution is in replacing the infrastructure in surrounding schools, to get rid of corroding pipes and the lack of filtration.

“We need different plumbing, materials like corrode contains lots of lead in them. There’s a lot of old pipes who have rusted or their soldering is rusted,” he said.

Jenkins said he wants to continue his activism and research in the coming years, as he continues to push for cleaner water in City Heights.

City Heights Youth Aims To Raise Awareness Of Drinking Water Quality