Poison Water: Flint Michigan “Enviromental Racism”

Water Management in Flint, Michigan, USA | EJAtlas

Flint, Michigan is located seventy miles northwest of Detroit Michigan.

Poisoning People, the Future and the Public Interest in Flint, Michigan |  NRDC

Flint,Michigan is located 70 miles northwest of Detroit. The city has a population of 100,000. General Motors, was founded in Flint in 1908. Flint’s Nickname is “Vehicle City” and was a manufacturing powerhouse for General Motors. At its peak, nearly ninty thousand people worked for General Motors in Flint, today less than five thousand people work for GM. The majority of the population is black. More than 40% of the population in Flint lives at or below the poverty level.

In August,The State of Michigan reached a $600 million agreement to compensate Flint residents for the state’s role in failing to protect them from lead-tainted water.

What Happened ?

Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration wanted to restructure Flint’s debt as the city was in danger of becoming insolvent. One cost-saving measure considered was to find a cheaper source for the city’s drinking water. The source of Flint’s water was Detroit.

March 2013: City and State officials believed Flint could build its own pipeline to connect to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA). That option was projected to save the region $200 million over 25 years.

Flint Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz tells the state treasurer, that the city is going to join the KWA. To connect with (KWA water supply would take 30 months).  The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) negotiated with Flint officials by offering to restructure water payments. Flint refused, insisting that KWA was the best water supplier.

DWSD argued that Flint could not spend more money on a new water system and that Lake Huron’s system was more efficient. DWSD demanded that the state deny Flint’s request, as it would start a water war which would essentially hurt DWSD. April 15, 2013, State Treasure Andy Dillion approved the water purchase. contract with the KWA .

April 17 2013, the DWSD delivered its one-year termination notice after Flint rejected their last offer. The DWSD expected that Flint would reimburse the investments for the water system that benefited regional customers. Flint and Genesee County rejected such responsibility but indicated their willingness to purchase pipelines. A day later, Detroit’s water system tells Kurtz it is terminating service to the city effective a year later, in April 2014

Needing reassure citizens, the government needing an alterative source of water turned to the Flint River. A source that was discontinued in the sixties.

Water from the Flint River water started flowing to the city on April 25,2014 Although the connection to the Flint River was temporary,many citizens were concerned about the water quality

Michael Prysby of the Michigan DEQ Office of Drinking Water verified that ‘the quality of the water met all of state’s drinking water standards and Flint water was safe to drink. Flint Mayor, Dayne Walling said “Its regular, good pure drinking water and it’s right in our backyard”

Complaints and Coverups

Immediately, some Flint residents complained about the smell and color of the new water, which was 70 percent harder than the previous water source.

In August 2014, E. coli and total coliform bacteria are detected in Flint’s water, prompting multiple advisories for residents to boil their water. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) says the city addressed the problem by increasing chlorine levels in the water.

The Environmental Protection Agency limit for lead is fifteen parts per billion in drinking water, the city’s tests revealed a lead content of 104 parts per billion in the home of a Flint resident.

For nearly 18 months, residents’ complained of foul-smelling and discoloured water, of hair loss and skin rashes. Michigan DEQ Office of Drinking Water told the public “anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax.”

On January 13, 2016, Snyder said that 87 cases of Legionnaires‘ disease, a waterborne disease was reported in Genesee County from June 2014 – November 2015, resulting in 14 deaths.

By early October 2014, officials at MDEQ were aware of a possible link between the water in Flint and the Legionnaires’ outbreak, but the public was never informed, and the agency gave assurances about water safety in public statements and at public forums


October 2014, General Motors stopped using Flint River water, fearing corrosion in its machines. “Because of all the metal … you don’t want the higher chlorine water (to result in) corrosion,” GM spokesman Tom Wickham says “We noticed it some time ago (and) the discussions have been going on for some time.”

Month’s after members of Government telling Flint citizens their water was safe with Goverment officials Pretending to drink Flint’s water in front of the media.

A team from Virginia Tech tested hundreds of homes for lead in Flint, Michigan and their preliminary test show serious levels of lead in city water.

The levels that we have seen in Flint are some of the worst that I have seen in more than 25 years working in the field,” Dr. Marc Edwards, a member of the Virginia Tech team. 

The EPA says it was notified by the MDEQ on or about April 24 “that the City did not have corrosion control treatment in place at the Flint Water Treatment Plant.”

Lead in Children

September 24,2015. Doctors from Flint’s, Hurley Medical Center presented findings of rise in blood lead levels of children less than 5 years old living within Flint zip codes 48501-48507 after the switch to Flint River water as the source. A spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said the elevated lead level results may be a result of seasonal changes,rather than the change in the water source.

Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health, including damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems.

Gov. Snyder’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, wrote in an email that the MDEQ and Department of Community Health “I feel, that some in Flint are taking the very sensitive issue of children’s exposure to lead and trying to turn it into a political football claiming the departments are underestimating the impacts on the population and particularly trying to shift responsibility to the state.”

National News Starring Governor Snyder

Free state supplied water filters proved ineffective. On October 16th, Flint returned back to the Detroit river for the source of its water. The governor’s office said in press briefing notes that the Detroit water “will be easier to manage. It comes from a more stable source than the river, it is fully optimized for corrosion control, and it is clear that residents of Flint have more confidence in this water source.”

But there is a problem, the cities pipes. In an December email from Snyder’s communications director, Meegan Holland, also said that Flint never tested the impact of the Flint River water on the distribution system.

On Dec 14th, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declares a state of emergency over the elevated lead levels in the city’s water. “I am requesting that all things be done necessary to address this state of emergency declaration, effective immediately!

Data shows that after the city switched the water source to the Flint River, fetal deaths rose 58% among women aged 15–49 compared to control areas.Overall, birth weight in Flint was found to be 48.9 grams less than the control group with a statistically significant 1.53% increase in incidences of low birth weight

Hot in Michigan!

POLL: Snyder takes hit over Flint water crisis

Statewide polls indicate they dissaprove of the Govenors handling of Flints water crises. On the 29th of December, MDEQ Director Dan Wyant and spokesperson Brad Wurfel resign. A day after the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, created by the governor, releases a preliminary report on the crisis and concludes that primary responsibility rests with the MDEQ. The report says that in the agency’s interactions with the public about their concerns, its response “was often one of aggressive dismissal, belittlement, and attempts to discredit these efforts and the individuals involved.”

On January 5, 2016, Governor Snyder declared Genesee County to be in a state of emergency. The State Emergency Operations Center recommended that all Flint children under six years old get tested for lead levels as soon as possible, either by a primary care physician or the Genesee County Health Department.]

January 2015: The Eniviriomental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an emergency order to take action on the Flint water crisis. “EPA has determined that the City of Flint’s and the State of Michigan’s responses to the drinking water crisis in Flint have been inadequate and that these failures continue” 

Febuary 2015: Gov. Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“Let me be blunt,” the governor says in his opening statement. “This was a failure of government at all levels. Local, state and federal officials — we all failed the families of Flint.”


No one, no Agency, is takeing responsibilty for Flint. The Govenor proposed a plan that would include providing professional support for children under 6 with elevated lead levels, replacing water fixtures in public facilities, replacing the city’s 8,000 lead service lines, and increasing resources for schools.

A the task force charged with investigating the causes of the Flint water crisis says in its final report that the MDEO bears primary responsibility.Task force member Chris Kolb tells said, “From a regulatory standpoint, to a protection of human health and the environment standpoint, they missed the boat completely. And it is extremely troublesome to me that an agency whose primary role, once again, is to protect human health and the environment came to these decisions, and they never backed off these decisions, no matter how many red flags they saw.”Others are also to blame, the report says, including the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, the city’s emergency managers and the governor.

Weeks, months, went by and despite the goverments best efforts the water remained unsafe to drink. Flints residents largely avoided the water and the water additives that would ‘re-scale’ corroded pipes in the water system, thereby preventing lead from leaching into the water, are not reaching the pipes because people in Flint didn’t want to pay for contaminated water that they can’t use.”

Scientists Now Know Exactly How Lead Got Into Flint's Water | Science |  Smithsonian Magazine

As Flints, pipes corrode. Michigan’s Attorney General sued ,Corporations, consultants, state employees accused of manslaugter and obstrution of justice . A total of 15 criminal cases

June 2019: The Michigan Attorney General’s Office dismissed all pending criminal charges arising from the Flint drinking water crisis,saying the initial investigation was bungled and it is opting to launch a new but expanded probe. Seven had earlier pleaded no contest to misdemeanors, with expectations they would cooperate with other pending prosecutions and their records would eventually be wiped clean.

On April 16, 2020, an article was published giving details of evidence of corruption and a coverup by Governor Snyder and Rich Baird, and stating that the statute of limitations on some of the most serious felony misconduct-in-office charges would expire on April 25, 2020. Responses from Michigan state authorities denied that a deadline was approaching, and said that criminal prosecutions would follow.

Nearly all of Flint water supply pipes are being replaced nearly every home and business. This Govermental error will cost taxpayers billions.

The Supreme Court said it wouldn’t block a lawsuit by Flint residents seeking to hold city officials accountable. Lawyers for the city had asked justices to step in, saying their clients had immunity from such lawsuits.

A previous ruling from a federal appeals court also sided with the residents.”Knowing the Flint River water was unsafe for public use, distributing it without taking steps to counter its problems, and assuring the public in the meantime that it was safe is conduct that would alert a reasonable person to the likelihood of personal liability,” the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals held.

Enviromental Racism?

 Environmental racism, a form of systemic racism whereby communities of color are disproportionately burdened with health hazards through policies and practices that force them to live in proximity to sources of toxic waste such as sewage works, mines, landfills, power stations, major roads and emitters of airborne particulate matter. In practice, environmental racism can take many forms, from workplaces with unsound health regulations to the siting of coal-fired power stations close to predominantly non-white communities. It can mean citizens drinking contaminated groundwater or being schooled in decaying buildings with asbestos problems.

Paul Mohai, reseacher at the University of Michigan researcher said the Flint Water Crises the worst example of environmental injustice in recent U.S. history.

“Given the magnitude of the disaster in Flint, the role that public officials’ decisions played that led to the poisoning of the city’s water, their slow pace at acknowledging and responding to the problem, and the fact that Flint is a city of almost 100,000 people indeed makes this the most egregious example of environmental injustice and racism in my over three decades of studying this issue,” Mohai said.

“One of the important lessons from the Flint water crisis is the importance of preserving and protecting the local democracy and a system of accountability. The voices of community residents need to be heard and taken seriously, rather than disrespected, minimized or dismissed.”

“What stands out about the Flint Water Crisis … is the apparent indifference and lack of concern that harm might be created,” Mohai wrote in the Michigan Sociological Review. “And even after the harm was created and finally acknowledged, there has been and apparent lack of sense of urgency to fix the problems.

“A fear I have is that the longer they remain unresolved, the more likely what has happened in Flint will become a precedent and model for how similar catastrophes are handled by state and federal governments in the future. The Flint Water Crisis and its aftermath should serve as a wakeup call for us all.”

600 Million

On the surface, 600 million seems generous for the citizens of Flint. But how do you measure, the long term effects of lead poisoning. There doesn’t seem to be a provision that provides continous health care for the citizens of Flint.

Nearly 80 percent of the settlement, which state officials said is likely the largest in Michigan history, would be paid to children who were younger than 18 when they were first exposed to Flint River water, which contained elevated levels of lead and bacteria in 2014 and 2015.

Adults in Flint exposed to city water will be eligible to recover compensation with proof of personal injury, the summary document says.

What’s daunting, are those citizens who aren’t showing outward signs of lead poisioning. What if the effects of the lead posioning is delayed? Is there a provision for those citizens? There are many organizations in Flint who says the settlement doesn’t go far enough.

In 2018, Michigan State University paid 500 million dollars to 300 victims of sexual abuse by a sports-medicine doctor who worked for the University..

600 million could be just the beginning?