Michigan water activist, 6 others win environmental prize

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2016, file photo, Flint, Mich. resident LeeAnne Walters testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. The woman who exposed the Flint, Michigan, lead disaster is among seven people around the world who are receiving the Goldman Environmental Prize, an annual award for grassroots environmental activists. Walters was repeatedly rebuffed by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration, even as she confronted state regulators with bottles of brown water flowing from her kitchen tap. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)

FLINT, Mich. — A woman who played a key role in exposing the lead-tainted water disaster in Flint, Michigan, is among seven people from around the world to be awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize for grassroots environmental activism.

LeeAnne Walters was repeatedly rebuffed by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration, even as she confronted regulators with bottles of brown water that came from her kitchen tap. Finally, with critical help from a Virginia Tech research team and a local doctor, it was revealed in 2015 that Flint's water system was contaminated with lead due to a lack of treatment.

Walters, a mother of four, "worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring justice to not only her immediate family but all residents of Flint," the Goldman Environmental Foundation said Monday in announcing this year's winners.

The prize was created in 1989 by the late San Francisco philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Winners are selected from nominations made by environmental organizations and others. The prize carries a $200,000 award.

Walters now lives in Virginia but regularly returns to Flint, where thousands of home water lines are being replaced due to the lead crisis. The city's water quality has improved since it stopped using the Flint River as its source after 18 months, although there are many concerns about lead that was ingested, especially by children.

The other winners are:

— Francia Marquez of Colombia, who rallied other women to vigorously oppose gold mining in the Cauca region.

— Claire Nouvian of France, who successfully campaigned against deep-sea fish trawling.

— Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid of South Africa, who fought to stop a nuclear plant deal between their country and Russia.

— Manny Calonzo of the Philippines, who led an effort to ban lead paint.

— Khanh Nguy Thi of Vietnam, who used scientific research to discourage dependency on coal-fired power.

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