Flint, Michigan Water Crisis

Why?

Flint, Michigan is located 70 miles north of Detroit, over 41% of its 91,830 residents live below the poverty line, and the city is approximately 56.6% African American. Flint used to have a robust economy created primarily by jobs from the country’s largest General Motor’s (GM) plant. However, GM downsized the plant in the early ’80s. By 2011, Flint was in a financial deficit of $25 million and the state of Michigan took over their budget. The officials who took over used some of the money allocated to the city’s water and used it to cover this deficit even though water itself was $9 million below. In April 2015, this State management ended as ‘the financial emergency has officially been addressed’, in this receivership letter. Flint switched to a different water source in 2014 to reduce this fund deficiency;  the city switched to the Flint River while a new pipeline was under construction connecting it to Lake Huron. Flint used the river before 1967 and switched to Lake Huron after this date.

The Flint River had not been treated with an anti-corrosive agent and was found to be 19 times more corrosive than water in Detroit. Thus, lead from the aging pipes began to leak into the water supply. The health effects of lead exposure are devastating and include: impaired cognition, behavioral and hearing problems in children, and a wide range of neurological and cardiological effects in growing fetuses. The CDC states that lead can affect nearly every bodily system in every stage of life, yet frequently goes unrecognized as poisonings are often symptomless until very serious and often irreprable damage has occurred.

Timeline:

  • 2007 – Flint is the only city in the county that risks tapping into Flint River as a backup, despite residents’ concerns
  • August, 2014 – The city detects fecal bacterium in the water supply, boiling is recommended to the west side of the city, advisory is lifted 6 days later, increased chlorine is added to the system
  • September, 2014 – A second boil water advisory is issued after E.Coli is detected
  • October, 2014 – The GM plant stops using the water (chlorine corroding machinery)
  • January, 2015 – City warns residents that the level of disinfectants in water exceeds the Safe Drinking Water Act. Detroit Water and Sewerage Authority offers to reconnect Flint to Lake Huron, but the city declines based on monetary increases. Residents bring discolored water and lists of symptoms to officials.
  • February, 2015 – EPA notifies the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) that dangerous levels of lead are dangerously high for one resident with 4 children (7 times greater than the national limit)
  • March, 2015 – Flint Council members vote to stop using river water, but state emergency manager overrules it
  • June, 2015 – Activists file a lawsuit on the basis of high health risks, city states lawsuit is baseless. EPA issues memorandum concerning the high levels of lead, VA tech scientists test tap water in homes which would be categorized as hazardous waste at those levels.
  • July, 2015 – MDEQ states that those worried can ‘relax’
  • August, 2015 – MDEQ orders Flint to optimize corrosion control
  • September, 2015 – VA tech submits preliminary report, which states water is corroding old pipes, leaching into water, and is not safe for drinking or cooking. A pediatrician releases study on blood lead levels in children of Flint before and after switching water sources.
  • October, 2015 – 3 Flint schools found to have dangerous levels of lead, water filters are being distributed. The City switches back to Detroit water.
  • November, 2015 – EPA files report, residents file federal class action lawsuit
  • December, 2015- Flint declares state of emergency, MDEQ director resigns
  • January, 2016 – Michigan National Guard is mobilized, outbreak of Legionaire’s disease, and Governor writes to the president to replace all pipes in outbreak of disaster, Obama declines to declare a disaster, but give $5 million in aid. EPA criticizes state’s slow response, a new federal lawsuit is filed against the state.
  • February, 2016 – Criminal charges are filed against government employees. Residents file a lawsuit against the EPA
  • June, 2016 – lawsuit filed against companies involved
  • July, 2016 – Six state workers are charged as investigation continues
  • October, 2016 – Lawsuit is filed against schools
  • November, 2016 – State is ordered to deliver bottled water to home
  • February 2017Residents in Flint have to start paying the full cost of their water again, even though what’s flowing from their taps has yet to be declared safe to drink without an approved filter.

Learn More

Obama declares state of emergency

Events that lead to water crises

Top Michigan health official, four others charged with manslaughter in Flint water crisis

 

How to Help

City of Flint

Flint residents still need your help

5 ways to help Flint crisis