Flint Michigan Water Crisis: Its Timeline And Latest Update

Flint Michigan Water Crisis Its Timeline And Latest Update

Humans can live for three weeks without food but only three days without water. Therefore, water indeed is essential. But, what if your water was poison? This is exactly what happened in Flint, Michigan, about three years ago. The city has a population of around 99,700 and is located 70 miles north of Detroit. 

According to 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Flint has the nation's highest poverty rate among U.S. cities, with at least 65,000 residents. An estimated 58% of the residents under age 18 live below the poverty line compared to a national average of 18%, which ranks first in the childhood poverty base from Michigan's 2016 median household income data.

The trouble began about three years ago when the city decided to switch from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River. But the new system wouldn’t be ready for two years. In the meantime, to save and cut costs, they switched to the Flint River water. And that decision turned out to be a mistake.

Foul smells, bad tastes, and discolored water that’s what came out of the tap in Flint, Michigan. When residents’ drinking water was pulled from the river, when the residents noticed that the tap water looked and smelled strange, it was later found to have a dangerous lead level. The worse thing was, the state knew about it and did nothing.

A high number of children had abnormal levels of lead in their blood. This even doubled after 18 months. Even though the water failed tests several times after the switch. The residents were not alerted. They informed only about nine months later about the problem. Families have been suffering for months without clean water. They had to find alternative sources.

What caused the Flint, Michigan water crisis? Follow the timeline of where it all started and know where the situation is at present.

Flint’s Water Crisis

Flint is known as the largest city in Genesee County, Michigan, United States. It is located near the Flint River and is the principal city in the region of Mid-Michigan. This place was founded in 1918 by a fur trader named Jacob Smith and then was known for great achievement and has left good remarks in history.

The 19th century is one of the golden times of the said place; during this time, Flint became one of the major lumbering areas in the Saginaw Trail history became the leading manufacturer of automobiles and carriages. Moreover, the city was named the “Vehicle City” and grew into a manufacturing powerhouse for General Motors’s Buick and Chevrolet cars.  

But the city’s glory didn’t last after General Motors downsized its workforce from 80,000 to 8,000 within the vicinity. Flint then faced a deep economic depression; this made the city’s population lower down to half.

Moreover, Flint encountered a major public health emergency after its water supply has been contaminated with lead and other more toxins.

Due to the fund's shortfall, the local government decided to build a new pipeline that delivers water coming from Lake Huron. And while the pipeline is still under construction, the city used the Flint River as a temporary water source; and this is when the city faced its crisis.

Last August 14, 2014, the city found out that the water is contaminated with fecal coliform bacterium and advised the citizens to boil the water first before consuming it. The local government then increased the amount of chlorine in the water and flushed the system.

But unfortunately, Flint has issued another report stating that the water is positive of total coliform bacteria. Moreover, it is said that if this bacteria was present, then it is possible that E. coli and other more disease-causing organisms could be polluting the water. And similarly to what they have done before, the local government just added more chlorine to the system and flushed the pipes clean.

This increased amount of chlorine in the water did not do well for General Motors. The said company has stopped using the city’s water because of the high levels of chlorine that corrode the engine parts of their vehicles. The company then decided to purchase water from the neighboring township, which has Lake Huron as the main water source.

At the beginning of the following year, the city has announced the risk of the byproducts of the disinfectants used in the water. Being exposed too long to these remnants could increase the probability of a person having cancer. The water was said to be safe but primary cautions were given to elders and children; if they happen to consume the city’s water, they are recommended to see a doctor immediately.

Flint Michigan Water Crisis Its Timeline And Latest Update

After a few months, the Detroit Free Press reported that the children have developed rashes and have suffered from mysterious illnesses. The community was alarmed and requested the local government to send some help and do something about the said problem. But, the MDEQ has released a statement ensuring the community not to be alarmed because the levels of the TTHM are not lethal and are still on gradual health emergency.

On February 26, 2015, Lee-Anne Walters, a resident of Flint, has reported to the EPA that water coming out of their tap has dark sediment. She has also theorized that this said water could cause why her four children to be sick.

And after some lab tests, the EPA has confirmed that the water from the Walters residence does contain dangerous levels of lead with an approximation of 104 parts per billion; this level is seven times greater than the standard lead limit of the EPA, which is 15 parts per billion. These results from the test did confirm the residence that the water is indeed the reason why most of them are getting sick.

Experts have said that the lead contaminating the water was caused by the rusting pipes used in delivering the water into each outlet and the improper plumbing built by the government. Although the officials have stated that they are cleaning and checking the pipes regularly, the results contrast their statements.

For a few more months, the problem wasn’t resolved, the level of contamination in the water increased, and the number of casualties having illnesses and diseases also multiplied. Due to this, the city was then declared to be under a state of emergency.

The citizens were irritated by the actions they attained from their local government. They have been confronting the elected officials regarding the faults on their city’s water, only to be told that their water was fine over and over again. The people then seek help from public attorneys in filing a case against the officials regarding their unaccommodating efforts on how they have tried to help the people and how they didn’t prioritize the health risks caused by the water.

Although the outcries of the people lasted for a few more months, their prayers were then answered. The officials governing during those dark times were voted out, and new trustworthy leaders were elected.

Mayor Karen Weaver, the newly elected mayor, promised to do her best to return Flint to its former glory. She has also advised not to use the city’s water because proper filtration and cleaning system are still being imposed and that people should use and drink filtered or bottled water.  

Criminal charges were also filed against officers and employees, who tried to hide and tamper the evidence of the lab results, financial liquidations, and other more things related to the city’s water crisis case.

After half a decade, Flint has experienced tragedy and catastrophe caused by the selfishness of their former officials. And right now, the water from their taps is still considered to be unsafe. Thankfully, the U.S. government and other big companies have been sending help to the city. They have provided free bottled waters and free medical check-ups to the citizens.

Although the community is still dealing with the aftermath and the trauma caused by the water and the economic crisis, they are trying their best to survive and still move on with their lives.

April 16, 2013

Flint’s city councils voted 7-1 to join the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) Eager to save money. A new pipeline project will deliver water from Lake Huron, ending its contract with Detroit. With the city council’s recommendation, State Treasurer Andy Dillon authorizes Flint to make the water switch where the water begins drawing from the Flint River.

Emergency manager Ed Kurtz officially signed the agreement. This was projected to save the city $19 million over eight years and was agreed upon by the state. Effective April 2014, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) will terminate its water service contract with Flint.

April 2014

The water switch from Detroit’s system to Flint River is considered temporary. At the same time, the city waits to connect to a new regional water system. The move was made as an economic measure for the struggling, majority-black city. The shift was delayed for days because workers had to complete constructing a disinfectant system at a treatment plant.

Soon after the switch, residents began complaining about the water's smell, taste, and appearance. They also raise health concerns like skin rashes and hair loss. So as concerns about bacteria and other problems.

August 2014

It is the first time the city aroused an advisory to its residents on the west side of Flint to boil their water. It announced that Fecal coliform bacterium had been detected in their water supply. The high amount of chlorine was raised in the water and cleaned the system.

September 2014

The city issued another boil-the-water advisory for having another positive test result of F. coliform bacteria. The contamination of this kind of bacteria in the water is also a warning or sign of E. coli bacteria or other disease-causing microorganisms. The city officials announced that they would clean the pipes and add more chlorine to the water. After four days, the residents were told that drinking water from their tap was safe.

October 2014

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued a statement. Outlining the possible causes of water contamination through the governor’s conference paper. According to Stephen Busch, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality district supervisor, the city had taken operational steps to limit the potential re-occurrence of boil-water advisories. Cleaning the system and increasing chlorine in the water in the future. The department blamed the old pipes, cold weather, and population decline.

January 2015

The elderly and parents of young children are urged to consult their doctors after the state found that the level of disinfecting chemicals in the water exceeded the threshold set by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Because of this, the city immediately warned its residents that the water contained by-products of disinfectants that may cause health issues. Including risks for cancer over time.

Detroit’s water system offered a $4 million connection fee to restore their service. However, Jerry Ambrose, Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager. And other city officials declined the offer. They cited their concerns that water rates could go up more than $12 million each year. Even the re-connection fee wavered. They insisted that the water should be safe.

The residents started to form a community forum with tote jugs of discolored water. The Detroit Free Press reported children were starting to develop rashes and were suffering from strange illnesses.

February 2015

Lee-Anne Walters, a Flint resident mother of four, contacted EPA with concerns about the dark sediment in her tap water. She thought of the possibility that it could make her children sick. The test results revealed that her water had 104 parts per billion (ppb) of lead. About seven times greater than the EPA limit of 15 ppb in the water. Because of this, the MDEQ was notified by the EPA of its results that dangerous levels of lead were detected in the water homes in Flint. Because even small amounts of lead could still cause lasting health and developmental problems in children.

The MDEQ noted “hiccups” change, including a build-up of Total Trihalomethanes ( TTHM), a cancer-causing byproduct of chlorine and organic matter. Elevated TTHM levels are not an immediate health emergency because the risk of disease increases only after years of consumption.

According to Miguel Del Toral, an EPA expert, the state was testing the water in a way that could profoundly minimize the lead levels. The officials played down the problems and said that the water is not an imminent threat to public health. For them, it was clear that the nature of the threat was addressed poorly. On the other hand, most Flint residents were more concerned and complaining about were other aspects of their water like the taste, smell, and color.

March 2015

Another water testing is done in Mrs. Walters's home. It detected 397 ppb of lead in tap water. Because of this, Flint City Council members voted 7-1 to stop using the Flint River as the water source and reconnected with Detroit. But Jerry Ambrose overruled the vote and named it as incomprehensible. Because the costs would skyrocket, and water from Detroit was not safe compared to Flint.

With this, city officials promised to spend $2.24 million for immediate improvements to its water supply. Later that month, city officials said the water quality has improved. And has met all state and federal standards for safety.

July 2015

Various concerns were thrown to the MDEQ that link with Mrs. Walter’s video on lead. Flint’s administrator said it would be untimely to draw any conclusions regarding the lead base from the leaked internal EPA memo. The press has disseminated to keep the public calm that leads in water was not widespread.

Dayne Walling, the Mayor of the city of Flint, drank a cup of tap water on a local television report to ensure that it was safe for drinking. Governor Snyder's chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, however, emailed the Department of Community Health. And responded that he is disappointed by the water issue in Flint. He did not think that people were getting the benefit of the doubt.

August-September 2015 

The MDEQ ordered Flint to improve the corrosion control treatment in the water supply. Due to the elevated lead levels as reported from the first six months of 2015 reveals.

Marc Edwards, a professor, and his team from Virginia Tech notified that the MDEQ conducted a water quality study. After, they issued a preliminary report indicating that 40% of Flint homes have elevated lead levels in the water. The team recommended the state should declare their water as not safe for drinking or cooking. Also, the river water was corroding old pipes, and the lead was leaching into the water. These were the findings of their study.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who led the research team from Hurley Medical Center, released a study — revealing the number of children with elevated levels in their blood. Still, the state insisted that water was safe.

October 2015

After the government epidemiologists validated the findings of Dr. Hanna-Attisha, the Flint officials urged the residents to stop drinking water. Governor Snyder ordered the distribution of water filters. The testing of water in schools and the expansion of water and blood testing. They demanded to discontinue the use of the Flint River.

The city returned from the Flint River to its former source of treated water, the Detroit municipal system. The governor signed a spending bill appropriating $9.35 million. To provide health services for residents and helped Flint reconnect with Detroit for water supply.

January to July 2016

Governor Snyder has asked for the help of the federal government in distributing water filters and bottled water. After declaring the state of emergency in Flint. He announced an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease - a different form of pneumonia caused by any type of Legionella bacteria. That occurred in the Flint area between June 2014 and November 2015, with 87 cases and ten deaths. Michigan health officials reported an increase in Legionnaires' disease cases. It included some fatal patients over the past two years in the county, and that included Flint.

Due to the outbreak, the Michigan National Guard was mobilized to help distribute clean water and sought the President’s help. But, he declined to declare a disaster in Flint. He authorized $5 million in aid instead of declaring a state of calamity in the city. The state of calamity allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to step in.

To ensure, state regulators were complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The agency issued an emergency administrative. They were clear in their response to the water crisis. Liane Shekter-Smith was the former chief of the Michigan Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, and five other current and former state workers were charged as the criminal investigation continued. She was facing charges due to willful neglect of duty to mislead the public and conceal evidence of rising lead levels in the water.

November to December 2016

The government has ordered the state of Michigan to deliver bottled water, especially to homes, in the city of Flint. This is because they were not able to check or ensure whether the filters were working correctly or not. One leader of a non-profit group helped residents with as much as 52% of the water filters installed in over 400 homes. These are the homes that had problems, according to the court documents.

Two of Flint's former emergency managers and two water plant officials, who reported directly to the governor, were charged with crimes of false conspiracy and pretense. They were blamed for ambiguity on the Michigan Department of Treasury (MDT) into getting millions of bonds. Then misused the money to finance the construction of a new pipeline.

January to March 2017

Around $722 million complaints were filed against EPA on behalf of over 1,700 residents affected by the water crisis. The MDEQ announced that Flint’s water system no longer has levels of lead exceeding the federal limit. This was according to the recent six-month study. With this, the State considered ending the bottled water distribution in the City of Flint.

A $97 million budget was approved by the federal judge funding for Michigan to examine and replace lead water service lines for 18,000 Flint homes. To be completed in a three-year time frame. Also, the EPA declared that it had awarded $100 million to Flint for drinking water infrastructure advancements.

April to June 2017

Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, recommended where the city should get its drinking water for a long time crisis. That left the supply contaminated with lead. Governor Snyder agreed with her decision.       

Flint's water system was improving, but the issues on lead remained. There was an increased potential for the lead to break off then enter the water supply. The city, state, and federal officials advised the residents to use water filters in their homes. And it was expected to continue in 2018 and 2019.

July to September 2017

Researchers collected samples from 138 Flint homes for the fifth and likely final round last month. The testing showed that lead levels continued to stay well below the federal safety standard of 15 ppb.

High lead levels, which can cause developmental delay, miscarriage, and other problems, were found mostly in children. The outbreak has led to 15 current or former government officials charged with crimes and lawsuits filed by several residents.

October 2017

The state prosecutors announced that Michigan's top medical official, Dr. Eden Wells, will be in charge of any crime for her role in the water crisis, linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that caused at least 12 deaths.

The drinking water in Flint, Michigan, is now in compliance with federal regulations on lead and copper content. But the officials cautioned that it could be a year or more before it is safe for residents to drink from their faucets because lead-tainted pipes need to be replaced.

April 6, 2018

Governor Snyder appeared to flag the all reasonable. After the MDEQ proclaims that lead levels in the Flint water supply are never again an issue, Governor Snyder declares that the free bottled water program will end some portion of a $450 million state and federal help program. The state had been giving out bottled water and filters at a few allocation points over the city. And will stop once the current supply runs out.

To be sure, there is some proof that the circumstance in Flint is improving. With lead levels staying below the government action level for as long as four six-month observing periods, from July 2016 to June 2018.

July 19, 2018

The EPA inspector general distributes a report. That emphatically scrutinizes the local, state, and federal government's delayed answer to the water crisis.

August 20, 2018

A judge decides that there is adequate proof to continue with a criminal trial for one of the officials. Accused of unintentional murder regarding the Legionnaires Disease outbreak. Nick Lyon, the state's Health and Human Services director, supposedly neglected "to caution the public about a Legionnaires' outbreak in Genesee County when he had seen that another outbreak was predictable and... carelessly inspecting the Legionnaires' outbreak."

What is happening in Flint, Michigan, is truly dreadful. The water contamination crisis will impact the community for decades. And underscores how ensuring safe drinking water is severe and high-stakes work, especially with the families and children affected by this disaster. Yet, note that a huge number of Flint residents are as yet getting their water from lead pipes. The federal action level for lead isn't a wellbeing-based number. It only is an authoritative trigger for remediation by the water utility. The EPA and other health experts acknowledge that there is no safe level of lead in water. So the progressing use of lead pipes by a huge number of Flint residents remains a worry. Especially in light of their total lead exposure over many years.

As the crisis has unfolded, plenty of finger-pointing happened over who is to blame and what went wrong. Critics of private water solutions have jumped on Flint as an opportunity to advance their agenda with no regard to facts. Flint is not far from what is happening in other parts of the world concerning water safety. Flint is one closer step to the path toward the future.

The Flint Water Crisis Lessons

Flint Michigan Water Crisis Its Timeline And Latest Update

The decisions regarding the dissemination of natural water resources have a chain of cause and effect on public health. This is what happened here in the water supply in Flint, Michigan. The state government’s purpose was to save money. But ended spending more when they made this decision. How can we identify and ethically handle public health concerns before they become crises, as displayed by this recent worst-case example from Flint? There are lessons we can learn from it.

Economics Can be Deceiving

Not every economically sensible decision is financially sound. Although switching Flint’s water supply to the river was supposed to save the city approximately $5 million over two years, the water crisis costs created by this decision are currently estimated at $55 million. And expected to climb as high as $1.5 billion, not even including the longstanding health and psychological effects on Flint residents.

Every economically suitable decision is not a guarantee that it is going to be economically sound as well. Although the switch from Detroit to Flint’s water supply was supposed to save the city $5 million over two years, the total expenditure made was $55 million. And expected to climb as high as $1.5 billion. This didn’t include the longstanding health and psychological effects on Flint residents.

Pay Attention to Unexpected Consequences

Supplying safe drinking water needs a critical balancing act. Even a slight change in supply can cause slumping effects on a whole treatment. And distribution system, so decisions must be made together with exhaustive research and advocacy.

 A water system’s underlying job is simply not just to meet compliance. But to distribute truly safe drinking water and thereby protect public health. Initial adherence to regulations should be considered a minimum, C- grade level of satisfactory performance. And by no means a stopping point.

Thinking comprehensively about logical potentialities will help prevent unexpected consequences. Such as widespread lead poisoning. A good starting point is EPA’s Water Supply Guidance (WSG) manual’s policy statements and clarifications on intent.

The Time of Isolation is Gone

We are no longer living in the small-town farming culture. Our infrastructures and industries grow increasingly urban and interdependent. We can no longer manage the mentality that the world is an endless trashcan on any governing or administrative level.

Sheila Suess Kenned, law and public policy professor at Purdue University, sums it up perfectly, saying, “America is no longer a country of four million farmers and small merchants scattered along the eastern seacoast. The surprising majority of Americans no longer grow and preserve our food or draw our water from a pristine nearby creek. Cars and factories discharge pollutants into our air, and airplanes crisscross the skies. And we live in densely populated cities where—among other things—we can’t just toss our garbage out the back door.”

The Top Priority is Smart Management

Flint Michigan Water Crisis Its Timeline And Latest Update

The effects of climate change are prevalent. As water usage drops, pollution increases, and storms become more violent. Because of this, cities are getting smarter about managing their drinking, rain, and wastewaters as fully integrated systems.

This has become crucial not only to advance distributing safe drinking water. But to fight these increasingly challenging issues, especially pollution. Without an increasingly big-picture view of systems that change entire populations, the result can only be lost.

Read and Learn more articles about the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan

TTHM in Drinking Water: The Flint, Michigan Story, A Lesson for Us All

Flint Water Crisis 

As Water Problems Grew, Officials Belittled Complaints From Flint 

Declaring a Water Crisis

Revisiting the Flint, Michigan, Lead-in-water Crisis

 Charge in Flint Water Crisis  

Legionnaire's Disease


Older Post Newer Post