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Miss America contestant uses pageant to call out Flint water crisis

"From the state with 84 percent of the U.S. fresh water but none for its residents to drink, I am Miss Michigan, Emily Sioma," she said.
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Michigan's contestant in this year's Miss America competition used her platform at the pageant to highlight the ongoing water crisis in Flint — drawing praise on social media.

"From the state with 84 percent of the U.S. fresh water but none for its residents to drink, I am Miss Michigan Emily Sioma," said Sioma, who is from Grass Lake, Michigan, during Sunday night's competition.

The pointed statement was a reference to the lead-contaminated water that started flowing into Flint residents' homes in the spring of 2014 after officials switched the impoverished city's water source to the Flint River to save money, but didn't treat the river to reduce corrosion.

The result was a man-made health crisis: young children suffered dangerously high lead levels. Experts also suspect a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak that affected at least 90 people and killed 12 occurred because of the switch.

More than a dozen state and local officials have been charged with crimes as a result of the water crisis.

Sioma's pageant introduction lit up Twitter, where viewers called her a "badass woman" and commended her for being so "bold" during the pageant, which is held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and aired live nationally.

"Miss Michigan using her 10 second intro to speak on flints water crisis instead of herself is truly using her platform for her state," one person wrote.

"Miss Michigan needs to win the 2019 Miss America Pageant simply for stating there still isn't any clean water during her introduction!" tweeted another.

Flint received tainted water for at least 18 months, but efforts to reduce the lead in the city's drinking water have been ongoing. In April, Michigan's governor announced the state would stop providing free bottled water to Flint, prompting outrage among residents, many of whom don't trust that tap water has returned to safe drinking levels.

The data Sioma cited appears to come from figures from the Environmental Protection Agency, which says on its website that the Great Lakes provide 84 percent of North America's surface fresh water.

This is not the first time Sioma has voiced her opinion on hot-button issues. A women's study major who graduated from the University of Michigan, Sioma has been open about a campus sexual assault she endured in the hopes of raising awareness about sexual violence.

At her graduation in 2016, she stood in silent protest with the words "I survived" painted on her commencement cap.

Her Flint remarks came during what was dubbed "Miss America 2.0" by the pageant. This was the first year that did not feature a swimsuit competition following calls to remove that element. Contestants were also encouraged to advocate for social issues.

Miss New York, Nia Franklin, was crowned Miss America 2019.