Recounting the Flint, MI Water Crisis: Four Years Later

     On April 25, 2014, a little more than four years ago, Flint, Michigan switched its water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. While it was just a plan to reduce the city’s costs, it sparked the domino effect that would begin three months later and continue to impact residents even today.  

     In 2014, after finding fecal coliform bacterium in the water supply, Flint issued a boil water advisory that August. The system was flushed with chlorine and, later that month, the advisory was lifted. However, that series of events repeated itself early that September and by October, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) stated that leaking valves and old cast iron pipes were some of the culprits behind these repetitive events. By January, the city was warning its residents of the water once more, this time saying that it contained byproducts of disinfectants with the potential to cause cancer.

     The real turn of events happened late that January, 2015. Noting the problems occuring after the switch to the Flint River less than a year before, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department offered to reconnect Flint to the Lake Huron water supply. Even with a reconnection fee waiver, the city officials declined the offer. Shortly after, discolored, rusty-looking water began to make an appearance in the community. People, mainly children, began to get sick without a known cause. It wasn’t until February 26, 2015, that the EPA notified the MDEQ that the water coming from the Flint River contained dangerous levels of lead. Up to 13,200 ppb of lead was found in some tap water. To compare, the maximum amount of lead the EPA allowed in drinking water is 15 ppb. At that point, some of the levels found would be regarded as hazardous waste.

     Fast forward through the years of investigations, charges, and overall politics, there were up to 30,000 children tested for high lead levels in their blood. However this past April, Governor Snyder announced the end of the free bottled water program in Flint, originally implemented to ensure residents have safe drinking water, as it was confirmed the public water supply was safe to drink.

     To learn more about the Flint water crisis, visit https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/index.html.


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