Flint water crisis
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The Flint water crisis began in 2014, after the drinking water source for the city of Flint, Michigan was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to a less costly source of the Flint River. Due to insufficient water treatment, lead leached from water pipes into the drinking water, exposing over 100,000 residents to elevated lead levels.
|Time||April 25, 2014|
|Location||Flint, Michigan, United States|
|Participants||Residents of Flint, Michigan|
|Deaths||12 (from Legionnaires' disease)|
After a pair of scientific studies proved lead contamination was present in the water supply, a federal state of emergency was declared in January 2016 and Flint residents were instructed to use only bottled or filtered water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing. Some officials have alleged that as of early 2017, the water quality had returned to acceptable levels. However, as of January 2019, residents and officials still express doubt over whether the water in Flint is safe to drink. All the lead pipes are being replaced, which is expected to be completed in 2019. There are an estimated 2,500 lead service lines still in place as of April 2019.
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The Flint drinking water contamination began in April 2014 when Flint changed its water source from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water (sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River) to the Flint River. Officials failed to apply corrosion inhibitors to the water. As a result, several problems occurred that culminated with lead contamination, creating a serious public health danger. The Flint River water that was treated improperly caused lead from aging pipes to leach into the water supply, leading to extremely elevated levels of the heavy metal neurotoxin. In Flint, between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead and they may experience a range of serious health problems. Due to the change in water source, the percentage of Flint children with elevated blood-lead levels may have risen from about 2.5% in 2013 to as much as 5% in 2015. The water change is also a possible cause of an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the county that has killed 12 people and affected another 87.
Several lawsuits have been filed against government officials on the issue, and several investigations have been opened. On January 5, 2016, the city was declared to be in a state of emergency by the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, before President Barack Obama declared it to be in a federal state of emergency, authorizing additional help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security less than two weeks later.
Four government officials—one from the city of Flint, two from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and one from the Environmental Protection Agency—resigned over the mishandling of the crisis, and one additional MDEQ staff member was fired. There have also been fifteen criminal cases filed against local and state officials in regards to the crisis.
Snyder issued an apology to the citizens and promised to fix the problem, and then sent $28 million to Flint for supplies, medical care, and infrastructure upgrades, and later budgeted an additional $30 million to Flint that will give water bill credits of 65% for residents and 20% for businesses. Another $165 million for lead pipe replacements and water bill reimbursements was approved by Snyder on June 29, 2016. A $170 million stopgap spending bill for repairing and upgrading the city of Flint's water system and helping with healthcare costs was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 8, 2016. The Senate approved it the next day. $100 million of the bill is for infrastructure repairs, $50 million for healthcare costs, and $20 million to pay back loans related to the crisis. On January 6, 2017, Snyder signed a bill that accelerates the public notice requirement for lead in drinking water to three business days, from the previous time of 30 days.
On January 24, 2017 the MDEQ told Flint Mayor Karen Weaver that the lead content of Flint water had fallen below the federal limit. The 90th percentile of lead concentrations in Flint was 12 parts per billion from July 2016 through December 2016—below the "action level" of 15 ppb. It was 20 ppb in the prior six-month period. On the next day, Flint Spokeswoman Kristin Moore said that anywhere from 18,000 to 28,000 homes in the city still needed service lines replaced, and that the city was planning to complete 6,000 homes per year through 2019.
On March 7, 2017, it was reported Flint water sampled by the state in February registered below the federal threshold for lead with 90 percent of samples at or below eight parts per billion, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says. The MDEQ said February's water tests mark the seventh straight month in which city water was below the 15 ppb level enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. February's testing also showed 95.8 percent of samples taken at homes at risk of high lead levels were at or below 15 ppb.
Timeline of the crisis
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The following is a sequence of events of the Flint water crisis.
- 1967–2013 – Officials for the City of Flint operate under a plan to use the Flint River as an emergency water source.
- November 29, 2011 - After the city declared a state of financial emergency three weeks earlier, Governor Snyder appointed Michael Brown as the city's Emergency Manager on November 29, effective December 1. He was the first of four such managers who effectively took the place of the Mayor until 2015, when a Receivership Transition Advisory Board was appointed.
- March 22, 2012 – County officials announce plans for a new pipeline to reduce costs by delivering water from Lake Huron to Flint.
- April 16, 2013 – The city approves the KWA contract.
- April 17, 2013 - Detroit terminates its water service contract.
- April 25 – After construction delays, the water source switch to the Flint River is completed. This date is considered the start of the water crisis.
- August 14 – The city announces a water boiling advisory for parts of the city. The advisory is lifted on August 20. A second warning is issued in September.
- October 2014 – Flint's General Motors Truck Assembly plant discontinues using Flint tap water due to corroding engine parts from high levels of chlorine.
- January 12 – City officials decline an offer to reconnect to Lake Huron water, concerned about higher water rates.
- January 21 – Flint residents complain of health issues caused by city water. Residents bring bottles of discolored tap water to a community meeting.
- February 26 – EPA manager Miguel Del Toral detects that lead levels in the water at the home of Flint resident LeeAnne Walters are seven times greater than the EPA's acceptable limit.
- March 23 – Flint City Council members vote to reconnect to Detroit water. Emergency manager Jerry Ambrose overrules the vote.
- June 24 – EPA manager Miguel Del Toral states in a memo that Virginia Tech scientists, led by water expert Dr. Marc Edwards, found extremely high lead levels in four homes.
- July 9 – Flint Mayor Dayne Walling drinks Flint tap water on local television in an attempt to dispel residents' fear of drinking the water.
- July 13 – In response to Del Toral's memo, a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official tells Michigan Radio, "Anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax." 
- September 8 – Virginia Tech's water study team reports that 40% of Flint homes have elevated levels of lead.
- September 9 – MDEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel states that Flint needs to upgrade its infrastructure but is skeptical about Virginia Tech's water study.
- September 11 – Virginia Tech recommends that the state of Michigan declare that the water in Flint is not safe for drinking or cooking.
- September 24 – Hurley Medical Center pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha releases her study showing an increased number of children with high levels of lead in their blood after the water source switch to the Flint River.
- October 15 – Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signs a bill for $9.35 million to re-connect to Detroit water and provide relief. The switch is made the following day.
- December 15 – Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declares a state of emergency.
- December 29 – MDEQ Director Dan Wyant resigns.
- January 5 – Governor Snyder declares a state of emergency in Genesee County.
- January 12 – The Michigan National Guard is mobilized to help distribute water in Flint.
- January 13 – Governor Snyder announces that an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease occurred in the Flint area between June 2014 and November 2015.
- January 14 – Governor Snyder asks President Barack Obama to declare a disaster in Flint.
- January 16 – President Obama declares a state of emergency in Flint and authorizes $5 million in aid.
- February 3 – The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform holds a hearing on the Flint water crisis.
- February 8 – Governor Snyder turns down a second invitation to testify at a congressional hearing on the crisis.
- March 17 – Governor Snyder testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
- April 20 – Criminal charges are filed against government employees Mike Glasgow, Stephen Busch, and Mike Prysby.
- May 4 – President Obama visits Flint to hear first-hand how residents have endured the city's water crisis, and to highlight federal assistance to state and local agencies.
- July 29 – Six state workers are criminally charged as investigations continue.
- December 19 - State of Michigan Office of Special Counsel publishes Investigator's Report on Attorney General Case 16-0003 (defendants Earley, Ambrose, Croft, and Johnson). 
- December 20 – Four officials are charged with felonies of false pretenses and conspiracy.
- January 24 – The MDEQ declares that, in a six month long study, the city's water tested below the federal limit.
- February 8 – State official Richard Baird informs Flint residents that the year-long state water bill subsidy will end, effective March 1, 2017.
- February 16 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds the first genetic link from Legionnaires' disease to Flint's water supply.
- February 20 – The state considers ending bottled water distribution in the City of Flint.
- March 1 – The state officially ends water bill subsidies for residents of Flint.
- March 15 – President Donald Trump meets with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver to discuss infrastructure funding for Flint.
- March 16 – Snyder creates the Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission in an effort to avoid future lead poisoning outbreaks.
- March 28 – A federal judge approves $97 million in funding for Michigan to examine and replace lead water service lines for 18,000 Flint homes, to be completed in a three year timeframe.
- April 18 – Weaver recommends staying with the Great Lakes Water Authority, which would reverse a 2012 decision that started the water crisis. Governor Snyder agreed with her decision.
- April 20 – At a town hall meeting regarding the crisis, six people are arrested at a Flint church for disorderly conduct and interfering with the police. The meeting was criticized as having violated Michigan's Opening Meetings Act.
- April 28 – Weaver announces that the city has plans to remove lead piping at 6,000 homes by the end of the year. The project is funded by a $100 million grant approved by Congress earlier that week.
- May 3 – A notice warning 8,000 residents that their water will be turned off due to lack of payment causes a controversy in the city.
- May 17 – It is reported that 128 blood tests in Flint may have registered falsely low lead levels.
- June 14 – Attorney General Bill Schuette charges five officials with involuntary manslaughter, and a sixth with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer.
- June 20 – MDEQ threatens Flint with legal action if a water contract is not approved by June 26, 2017. Mayor Weaver calls for the Flint city council to approve a 30-year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority.
- June 26 – After several hours of debate, city council decides to postpone the vote on whether to approve the 30-year GLWA contract until September 2017.
- June 28 – Michigan sues Flint, alleging that the city council's failure to approve a recommendation to buy water long-term from the GLWA is endangering the public. Flint hired an attorney to fight the charges and renegotiate the contract with the state.
- July 24 – The Flint Fast Start initiative announces that over 2,500 of the approximately 30,000 homes needing new water service lines have completed pipe replacement.
- August 11 – MDEQ releases a letter stating that Flint has "significant deficiencies", which among other issues include source water, financial, distribution system, management and operations.
- August 29 – A study published in the American Chemical Society's publication Environmental Science & Technology states that the Flint River was "a likely trigger contributing to the increase in Legionnaires' disease incidence."
- September 15 – Water from 138 Flint homes tested during the prior month by Virginia Tech has registered lead levels well below the federal guidelines. Dr. Marc Edwards states it is likely the last time such sampling coordinated by Virginia Tech will be necessary in Flint.
- September 20 – A study conducted by professors David Slusky and Daniel Grossman is released demonstrating fertility rates decreased by 12 percent among Flint women and fetal death rates increased by 58 percent since the switch to the Flint River in 2014.
- October 9 – State prosecutors announce that Dr. Eden Wells, Michigan's top medical official, will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for her role in the water crisis, which was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that caused at least 12 deaths.
- October 9 – Flint city council hires a North Dakota-based environmental consultant for $150,000 to conduct an analysis of the city's potential future water sources.
- October 10 – A Michigan Department of Health and Human Services study finds that the Flint River water did not contribute to the increase in infant deaths and stillbirths in Flint.
- October 17 – A federal judge orders the City of Flint to choose a long-term water source by October 23, 2017.
- October 26 – An EPA report finds fault with Michigan's oversight of Flint's drinking water system, placing the most blame with the Michigan DEQ.
- October 31 - The city council votes to extend its contract with the GLWA for another 30 days while a long-term deal is pending.
- November 21 – City council votes 5–4 to sign the 30–year contract with GLWA.
- January 8 – MDEQ official Eric Oswald, DEQ's Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division director, tells the EPA he also has concerns about Flint's "long-term, technical, managerial and financial capacity" to handle the responsibility and that "the city faces numerous challenges in staffing its limited water treatment plant."
- January 12 – An MDEQ study for the first half of 2017 claims 90% of water samples were at or below 7 ppb of lead, with an official stating the city's "water quality is restored." Over 30,000 Flint water samples had been tested during the crisis.
- February 5 – A Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study on the causes of an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Flint in 2014 and 2015 found that low chlorine levels were the cause. Chlorine, which kills microbes responsible for the disease, also reacts with heavy metals like lead and iron. High levels of lead and iron in Flint's water may have been responsible for the decreased amount of chlorine available.
- March 12 - New data from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality shows the spike in samples from Flint elementary schools that tested above 15 parts per billion of lead, the threshold under the Lead and Copper Rule.
- March 26 - A study published in The Journal of Pediatrics shows blood lead levels in Flint children ages 5 and younger hit an all-time low in 2016.
- April 2 - A new study by the MDEQ reports that elevated lead levels were found in 4 percent of final water samples from Flint Community Schools. One school's results show lead levels at 100 ppb, six times the federal action level.
- April 6 - The state announces the distribution of free bottled water in the city is ending. Water distribution centers will be closing in the next few days, although water and replacement cartridges will still be available. In response Mayor Weaver says the city plans to sue the state so it can continue. The program was funded through the $450 million federal loan, which had not run out. The reasoning Michigan planned to end the distribution was due to testing of water resulting in low lead levels. The distribution continued until the supply ran out.
- April 7 - Hundreds of Flint residents fled to water bottle distribution centers to gather remaining free water bottles. Residents were still worried about drinking water from taps, since not all of the pipelines had been switched.
- April 12 - A federal judge approves a $4.1M settlement to be used to test Flint children for lead poisoning.
- April 13 - The Natural Resources Defense Council announced the results of tests of 92 homes with lead service lines showed the 90th percentile for lead was 4 parts per billion.
- April 23 - Flint resident LeeAnne Walters is awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in exposing the water crisis.
- April 26 - The EPA approves a $1.9 million grant to Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards for nationwide research of lead contamination in drinking water. A groundbreaking step, resulting from the Flint Water Crisis, to ensure of the safety of future generations.
- May 10 - Mayor Karen Weaver announces that Nestle will donate 1.6 million bottles of water (100,000 bottles of water per week) until Labor Day, September 3, 2018. Water will be available to Flint residents at distribution centers located throughout the city.
- May 16 - Flint Department of Public Works Director Robert Bincsik sends a letter to the EPA saying there are still 14,000 lead service lines in the city, 15% more than previous projections.
- June 15 - George Krisztian, an assistant director of DEQ's Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, said that Flint's 90th percentile for lead was 6 ppb in the first six months of the year, up since the state stopped bottled water deliveries to the city in April. The MDEQ also said it's ready to turn the testing program back over to the city.
- July 11 - Elon Musk states on Twitter: "Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding."
- July 30 - The DEQ announced that in June and July 2018, of the 420 filtered water samples from Flint Public Schools tested, 100 percent were below 15 parts per billion of lead, and more than 99 percent met the 5 ppb bottled water standard.
- September 24 - The Mayor's office reported that a total of 15,031 pipes have been excavated at homes in Flint. This includes service lines to 7,233 homes that have been identified as lead and/or galvanized which have been replaced, including 1,005 homes found this year.
- September 28 - A report by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the Genesee County Health Department failed to help 85% of children diagnosed with high blood lead levels in 2016.
- October 5 - Elon Musk donates approximately $480,000 to the Flint school system to pay for UV filtration devices in all 12 schools; installation is expected to be completed by January 2019.
- December 26 - In a published interview, governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer pledged to restore free water distribution to Flint residents.
- January 2 – In her first act as Governor, Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive requiring state employees to immediately report to their department or agency director any threat to public health or safety, an action inspired by the mistakes made by her predecessor's administration that led to the water crisis.
- January 4 – New Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel offers Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy the job of Special Prosecutor on the Flint water crisis criminal cases, succeeding Todd Flood. Worthy accepted the job on February 21. Prosecutor Todd Flood was reassigned as special assistant attorney general on February 25, while several other attorneys joined the prosecution teams. On April 29, Flood was fired by Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who claimed he failed to “fully and properly” pursue potentially importance evidence in criminal cases tied to the Flint water crisis.
- February 18 – A report posted online by the state Department of Environmental Quality said the 90th percentile for 51 high-risk homes tested in Flint from May through December 2018 was 4 parts per billion of lead—less than half the current federal and future state action level.
Some water service lines in Flint were installed between 1901 and 1920. As with many other municipalities at the time, all of the service lines from the cast iron water mains to end users' homes were constructed of lead, because it was relatively inexpensive and easy to work. Lead pipes can leach lead into the water, especially if certain contaminants are present. However, the water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, where Flint had obtained its water since 1967, had been treated well enough that the leaching from the lead pipes was at levels considered acceptable by state and federal environmental protection agencies. There are an estimated 43,000 service lines in the city; these include 3,500 lead lines, 9,000 known galvanized lines, and 9,000 unknown service lines.
Lead exposure across the U.S. has fallen dramatically since the 1980s, but no blood-lead level is considered completely safe. Children under age five, and especially infants and unborn children, bear the greatest risk of deleterious and irreversible health outcomes. From 2012 to 2016, the CDC set a "reference level" of 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), in order to target for case management the 2.5% of young American children with the highest blood-lead levels. At 45 µg/dL, chelation therapy is considered. Among the many ways lead can enter a modern American's bloodstream is through lead plumbing. Acidic water makes it easier for the lead found in pipes, leaded solder, and brass faucets to dissolve and to enter a home's drinking water. Therefore, public water treatment systems are legally required to use control measures to make water less acidic. Plumbing that contains lead is often found in buildings constructed in the 1980s and earlier.
From 2011 to 2015, Governor Snyder appointed four emergency managers to control Flint's finances. After 2015, the city continued to receive financial guidance under the lesser oversight of a Receivership Transition Advisory Board.
Switching to a new water source
In 2011, Genesee County initiated the switch to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA); the KWA would supply water to both Genesee County and Flint. On March 25, 2013, the purchase of 16 million gallons per day from the KWA was approved by the Flint City Council. The KWA informed the council that they could dig to Lake Huron (the new water supply) in 30 months using a bored tunnel. Ed Kurtz, Flint's emergency manager, along with Mayor Dayne Walling and Flint City Council, approved the action and awaited the State Treasurer's approval.
Following this decision, 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.
On April 1, 2013, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department demanded that the state deny Flint's request, as it would start a water war, which would essentially hurt DWSD. This press release also provided an option for Flint: the sale of raw, untreated water. Drain Commissioner Wright of Genesee County, accused the DWSD of media negotiation and then replied, "It would be unprecedented for the state to force one community to enter into an agreement with another, simply to artificially help one community at the other's expense ... this is exactly what the [Detroit Water and Sewerage Department] is arguing ..."
On April 15, 2013, State Treasurer, Andy Dillon, approved the water purchase contract with the KWA. Emergency Manager Kurtz signed the KWA water purchase agreement the following day. On April 17, the Detroit Water and Sewer Department 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.
In April 2014, to save about $5 million in under two years, Flint started treating water from the Flint River instead of purchasing Lake Huron water from Detroit. Previously, the Flint River was the backup water source. In June 2014, Flint's emergency manager, Darnell Earley, finalized the sale of a nine-mile section of water pipeline to Genesee County for $3.9 million. This pipeline fed Detroit water into the county, and after the Huron pipeline was active, would service the eastern part of the county, as well. By December 2014, the city had already invested $4 million into its water plant. On July 1, 2014, Flint emergency manager, Darnell Earley, gave operational authority to Mayor Dayne Walling over two city departments, including Public Works.
It was later reported that by not adding a corrosion inhibitor, Flint was going to save about $140 per day.
Early water contamination
After the permanent switch to the Flint River, city residents began complaining about the color, taste, and odor of their water. In August and September 2014, city officials detected levels of coliform bacteria, so residents were advised to boil their water. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality determined that cold weather, aging pipes, and a population decline were the cause of this bacteria. According to Stephen Busch, a DEQ district supervisor, the city took appropriate measures to limit a recurrence. General Motors (GM) made the first complaint about the corrosivity of the water. GM stopped using Flint water in October 2014, after reporting that the water was corroding car parts. General Motors requested to switch back to the Detroit Water source, which was later approved by city officials.
Prior to August 2014, additional chlorine had been added to eliminate bacteria from the Flint River. This is likely the cause of a spike in THMs, an unsafe chlorine byproduct, in one of eight water locations. Long-term exposure to this chemical has been linked to cancer and other diseases. Following this test, the DEQ placed Flint on violation notice, but did not reveal the information to residents until January 2015.
The employees of the Flint Public Library declared the water undrinkable after noticing that it was discolored, despite the city's claim that the water was safe. Since 2014, the library has provided safe water for the public alongside the state's most prominent bottled water provider.
January and February 2015 tests showed that the city water met all health and safety standards. Nevertheless, the Detroit water system offered to reconnect Flint, waiving a $4 million connection fee, but was declined by emergency manager Jerry Ambrose. DEQ officials indicated that there is no "imminent threat to public health," as the nature of the issue was "communicated poorly."
Return to Detroit water
In March 2015, Flint voted to switch back to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. This vote was motivated by residential complaints and recommendations from Veolia North America to prevent the city from further violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. Jerry Ambrose, Flint's emergency manager and financial supervisor, disagreed with the reintroduction of the Detroit water source. Ambrose argued, "Flint water today is safe by all Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality standards, and the city is working daily to improve its quality."
On March 2, 2016, Michigan declared that returning to the Detroit water system must be approved by the State. When approved, the city was granted an emergency loan of $7 million.
In August 2015, local organizations observed that high concentrations of chloride caused the water to be orange and that the water contained high levels of lead. The lead levels were caused by the omission of orthophosphate treatments, which led to excessive pipe corrosion. Consequently, the three organizations, "... delivered more than 26,000 online petition signatures to Mayor Dayne Walling, demanding the city end its use of the Flint River and reconnect to the Detroit water system." Flint's water supply was switched back to Detroit water systems in October 2015. Subsequently, Flint started adding additional orthophosphate to the water to rebuild the pipe lining.
On October 8, 2015, Snyder requested that Michigan Legislators contribute $6 million of the $12 million for Flint to return to Lake Huron water. The City of Flint would pay $2 million, and the Flint-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation would pay $4 million. Jim Ananich, the State Senator representing Flint, demanded that the state refund the $2 million to the city. Ananich also requested further emergency funding from the state and long-term funding to address the effects of the lead contamination.
On September 27, 2016, Flint officials announced that the city will continue to use Detroit water until a new stretch of pipeline is constructed and the Flint River is tested and treated by the KWA.
From the time of August 2015 to November 2016, median water lead levels began to go down again depending on the type of water service pipes each home had. In homes with copper pipes, the median water lead level dropped from 3.0 micrograms per liter (µg/L) to <1 µg/L, galvanized service lines dropped from a median water lead level of 7.2 µg/L to 1.9 µg/L, and lead service lines saw a drop from a median water lead level of 9.9 µg/L to 2.3 µg/L. 1 µg/L is equivalent to 1 part per billion.
On December 9, 2016 the MDEQ reported that more than 96 percent of water samples in Flint residencies were now below the EPA lead threshold of 15 parts per billion.
On March 15, 2017, the Genesee County Water and Waste Services Advisory Board voted to construct a new pipeline; it would be a 7-mile, 42-inch connector to the KWA pipeline. The pipeline will allow the treatment of raw Lake Huron water, so the city of Flint can continue to buy pre-treated water from the Great Lakes Water Authority. The $12 million project will allow Flint to remain a customer of the GLWA until at least 2019.
Lead exposure findings
In January 2015, a public meeting was held, where citizens complained about the "bad water." Residents complained about the taste, smell, and appearance of the water for 18 months before a Flint physician found highly elevated blood lead levels in the children of Flint. During that time period, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had insisted the water was safe to drink. A study by Virginia Tech researchers (see section below) determined that the river water, which, due to higher chloride concentration, is more corrosive than the lake water, was leaching lead from aging pipes. Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan said this level of lead exposure is comparable with what the Iraqi people have experienced since the U.S. occupation in 2003.
While the local outcry about Flint water quality was growing in early 2015, Flint water officials filed papers with state regulators purporting to show that "tests at Flint's water treatment plant had detected no lead and testing in homes had registered lead at acceptable levels." The documents falsely claimed that the city had tested tap water from homes with lead service lines, and therefore the highest lead-poisoning risks; however, the city did not know the locations of lead service lines, which city officials acknowledged in November 2015 after the Flint Journal/MLive published an article revealing the practice, using documents obtained under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. The Journal/MLive reported that the city had "disregarded federal rules requiring it to seek out homes with lead plumbing for testing, potentially leading the city and state to underestimate for months the extent of toxic lead leaching into Flint's tap water."
In a new report released March 1, 2016, 37 of the 423 recently tested sentinel sites had results above the 15 ppb limit. Eight of the samples exceeded 100 ppb. A recent study however showed that significantly more samples exceeded the 15 ppb limit in the voluntary or homeowner-driven sampling program whereby concerned citizens decided to acquire a testing kit and conduct sampling on their own (non-sentinel sites).
See Education and research section for later studies.
Hurley Medical Center study I (2015)
On September 24, 2015, Hurley Medical Center in Flint released a study, led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the program director for pediatric residency at Hurley Children's Hospital, confirming that the proportion of infants and children with elevated levels of lead in their blood had nearly doubled since the city switched from the Detroit water system to using the Flint River as its water source. Using hospital records, Hanna-Attisha found that a steep rise in blood-lead levels corresponded to the city's switch in water sources. The study was initially dismissed by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesman Brad Wurfel, who repeated a familiar refrain: "Repeated testing indicated the water tested within acceptable levels." Later, Wurfel apologized to Hanna-Attisha. The team's study appears in the February 2016 issue of American Journal of Public Health.
Hanna-Attisha's research found that the average proportion of Flint children with elevated blood-lead levels (above five micrograms per deciliter, or 5 × 10–3 grams per 100 milliliters of blood) rose from 2.4% (2013, before the change in water source) to 4.9% (2015, after the change in water source). In areas where water lead levels were considered high at ≥ 15 parts per billion, which is the maximum amount of lead allowed in water per the Safe Drinking Water Act Lead and Copper Rule, the average proportion of Flint children with elevated blood-lead levels rose from 4% to 10.6%. Michigan Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program data agree an increase occurred, suggesting an increase from 2.2% of children (May 2013 – April 2014) to 3.0% (May 2014 – April 2015). Hanna-Attisha's data were taken from hospital laboratory records for children less than five years old. Hanna-Attisha's sample numbers were large, both for the pre-switch and post-switch time periods and for Flint children (1,473) and for children not exposed to Flint water (2,202). Demographics were meaningfully different among the two groups. In terms of race, 24.4% of the children outside of Flint were African American, while 76.8% of the children in areas of high water lead levels (≥ 15 parts per billion) were African American, and 67.0% of the children in areas of lower water lead levels (< 15 parts per billion) were African American. Children outside of Flint had a younger average age (1.86 years) compared to areas inside Flint (2.04-2.09 years). Socioeconomic status also represented a meaningful difference with children inside of Flint being more disadvantaged than those children who lived outside of Flint. In conclusion, the study demonstrated that elevated lead levels in children's blood was correlated with elevated lead levels in Flint water. Because lead screening is not completed for all children, such data may be skewed toward higher-risk children and thus overestimate lead exposure, especially in non–high-risk areas.
Hanna-Attisha and Flint resident LeeAnne Walters were awarded PEN America's Freedom of Expression Courage Award on May 16, 2016.
Hurley Medical Center study II (2018)
In June 2018 the Journal of Pediatrics published a much expanded study of blood lead levels measured at Hurley Medical Center. The original 2015 study of Hurley records involved a total of 1,473 children "younger than 5 years" whose address could be mapped to a site inside Flint in two pre/post 8.5 month periods. The 2018 study, led by Hernán F. Gómez, involved 15,817 children "aged ≤5 years" over the 11-year period 2006–2016. Data for 2012–2016 were available from center's Epic EMR system; records for earlier years were scrounged from legacy systems. The results show an increase in the fraction of children with elevated lead blood levels immediately pre/post the water switch (from 2.2% to 3.7%); invoking a Bonferroni correction, Gómez argues the change is not statistically significant. These results are consistent with a CDC report which found that the fraction of "all children under age 6" with elevated lead blood level "was nearly 50 percent higher after the switch to Flint River water." The striking result of Gómez et al. however is that during the 11-year period, the "crisis years" are actually the third and fourth lowest years for lead blood levels. That is, the upward blip during the water switch sits on a rapid declining curve (presumably due to the many lead mitigation projects that have been initiated nationally) so that blood lead levels during the crisis are actually lower than those two years earlier.
Virginia Tech water study
In September 2015 a team from Virginia Tech arrived in Flint. Led by professor Dr. Marc Edwards, an expert on municipal water quality, the team came to perform lead level testing on the Flint water supply, working under a National Science Foundation grant. Edwards had been contacted by Flint resident, LeeAnne Walters, whose family suffered from extreme health problems, almost immediately following the switch to the Flint River water. Walters had attempted to act locally, but she was repeatedly ignored by city, state, and EPA officials. The study found that Flint water was "very corrosive" and "causing lead contamination in homes". It concluded in its report that "Flint River water leaches more lead from plumbing than does Detroit water. This is creating a public health threat in some Flint homes that have lead pipe or lead solder."
Edwards was shocked by the extent of the contamination, but even more so by the inaction of the proper authorities after being made well aware of the contamination. Edwards and his team found that at least a quarter of Flint households had levels of lead above the federal level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) and that in some homes, lead levels were at 13,200 ppb. Edwards said, "It was the injustice of it all and that the very agencies that are paid to protect these residents from lead in water, knew or should've known after June at the very very latest of this year, that federal law was not being followed in Flint, and that these children and residents were not being protected. And the extent to which they went to cover this up exposes a new level of arrogance and uncaring that I have never encountered."
Edwards' team created a website, called "Flint Water Study", with the main purpose of informing, and creating support for Flint residents during the crisis. The site also summarized study results and became a comprehensive public database for all information related to the study.
On January 11, 2016, the Virginia Tech research team led by Edwards announced that it had completed its work. Edwards said, "We now feel that Flint's kids are finally on their way to being protected and decisive actions are under way to ameliorate the harm that was done." Edwards credited the Michigan ACLU and the group Water You Fighting For with doing the "critical work of collecting and coordinating" many water samples analyzed by the Virginia Tech team. Although the labor of the team (composed of scientists, investigators, graduate students, and undergraduates) was free, the investigation still spent more than $180,000 for such expenses as water testing and payment of Michigan Freedom of Information Act costs. A GoFundMe campaign has raised over $116,000 of the $150,000 needed for the team to recover its costs.
On January 27, the city of Flint retained Dr. Edwards to monitor the city's water testing efforts.
On March 1, 2016, the Virginia Tech team was given $80,000 from an EPA grant to re-test the lead levels in 271 Flint homes.
On August 11, 2016, Kelsey Pieper, a member of Dr. Edwards' research team, said 45 percent of residents that collected samples in July for the lead testing program had no detectable level of particulate lead in their water supply. She added the study yielded a lead reading of 13.9 ppb, just below the federal action level of 15 ppb. However, Pieper acknowledged the sampling, which was conducted by volunteer residents, does not fulfill the testing requirements of the federal Lead and Copper Rule. State testing of the most-recent six month monitoring period, which began January 1 and complied with Lead and Copper Rule regulations, showed a 90th percentile lead reading of 20 ppb, which exceeds the federal action level. Roughly 93 percent of samples from the third round of expanded state sentinel site testing showed results below the lead action level. Dr. Edwards called the results the "beginning of the end" of the public health disaster associated with the water crisis.
On December 2, 2016, Dr. Edwards said lead wasn't detected in 57 percent of 154 Flint homes tested in November 2016 – up from 44 percent in July 2016. He also advised people to continue using filters.
On January 13, 2016, Snyder said that 87 cases of Legionnaires' disease, a waterborne disease, were reported in Genesee County from June 2014 – November 2015, resulting in 12 deaths (two more people later died from the disease). Although the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said that there is no evidence of a clear link between the spike in cases and the water system change, Edwards stated the contaminated Flint water could be linked to the spike. In a second report released January 21, state researchers had still not pin-pointed the source of the outbreak. The next day, an official at McLaren Regional Medical Center in Flint confirmed that there was a spike in Legionella cases in Flint and elsewhere in Genesee County, but noted that there was "no definitive data to support that McLaren Flint is the source of exposure for any patient testing positive for the Legionella antigen."
The family of one of the people who died of Legionnaires has filed a $100 million lawsuit against McLaren.
The Flint Journal obtained documents via the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on the Legionnaires' outbreak and published an article on them on January 16, 2016. The documents indicated that on October 17, 2014, employees of the Genesee County Health Department and the Flint water treatment plant met to discuss the county's "concerns regarding the increase in Legionella cases and possible association with the municipal water system." By early October 2014, the Michigan DEQ 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. An internal January 27, 2015 email from a supervisor at the health department said that the Flint water treatment plant had not responded in months to "multiple written and verbal requests" for information. In January 2015, following the complete breakdown in communication between the city and the county on the Legionnaires' investigation, the county filed a FOIA request with the city, seeking "specific water testing locations and laboratory results ... for coliform, E-coli, heterotrophic bacteria and trihalomethanes" and other information. In April 2015, the county health department contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in April 2015 a CDC employee wrote in an email that the Legionnaires' outbreak was "very large, one of the largest we know of in the past decade and community-wide, and in our opinion and experience it needs a comprehensive investigation." However, MDHHS told the county health department at the time that federal assistance was not necessary.
Emails obtained by Progress Michigan in February 2016 indicate Snyder's office knew about the outbreak since March 2015, despite Snyder's claim he was only informed in January 2016.
On March 11, 2016, Governor Snyder ordered an investigation of the MDHHS regarding the outbreak.
On February 16, 2017, it was reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered the first genetic links between city water and patients diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County. "The presence of Legionella in Flint was widespread," said Dr. Janet Stout, a research associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a national expert on the disease. "The (laboratory) results show that strains (of the bacteria) were throughout the water system." Virginia Tech researcher Amy Pruden published a study that found Legionella levels up to 1,000 times higher than normal tap water in Flint, and said finding a patient whose clinical isolates—or bacteria—matched the McLaren water sample without having been hospitalized there "suggests that same strain may have been elsewhere."
On March 10, 2017, affidavits filed by experts in court supported the conclusion that Flint water was connected to the Legionnaires' disease outbreak. Dr. Janet Stout wrote in an affidavit: "(It) is my opinion to a reasonable degree of probability that the source water change and the subsequent management of the municipal water system caused conditions to develop within the municipal water distribution system that promoted Legionella growth and dispersion, amplification, and the significant increases in cases of Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015." J. David Krause, director of Forensic Analytical Consulting Services, and Dr. Hung K. Cheung, a doctor specializing in environmental and occupational medicine agreed with her claims.
On February 5, 2018, a study published in the journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and mBio concluded that the 2014-2015 outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Flint was due to low levels of chlorine which, at higher levels, would have made it difficult for bacteria to replicate. Because chlorine reacts with heavy metals like lead and iron, high levels of both in Flint's water may have been responsible for the decreased amount of chlorine available.
Inquiries, investigations, resignations, and release of documents
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One focus of inquiry is when Snyder became aware of the issue, and how much he knew about it. In a July 2015 email, Dennis Muchmore (then Snyder's chief of staff) wrote to a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) official, "I'm frustrated by the water issue in Flint. I really don't think people are getting the benefit of the doubt. These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us (as a state we're just not sympathizing with their plight)." In a separate email sent on July 22, 2015, MDHHS local health services director Mark Miller wrote to colleagues that it "Sounds like the issue is old lead service lines." These emails were obtained under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act by Virginia Tech researchers studying the crisis, and were released to the public in the first week of January 2016.
In October 2015, it was reported that the city government's data on lead water lines in the city was stored on 45,000 index cards (some dating back a century) located in filing cabinets in Flint's public utility building. The Department of Public Works said that it was trying to transition the data into an electronic spreadsheet program, but as of October 1, 2015, only about 25% of the index card information had been digitized.
On October 21, 2015, Snyder announced the creation of a five-member Flint Water Advisory Task Force, consisting of Ken Sikkema of Public Sector Consultants and Chris Kolb of the Michigan Environmental Council (co-chairs) and Dr. Matthew Davis of the University of Michigan Health System, Eric Rothstein of the Galardi Rothstein Group and Dr. Lawrence Reynolds of Mott Children's Health Center in Flint. On December 29, 2015, the Task Force released its preliminary report, saying that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) bore ultimate blame for the Flint water crisis. The task force wrote that the MDEQ's Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance (ODWMA) adopted a "minimalist technical compliance approach" to water safety, which was "unacceptable and simply insufficient to the task of public protection." The task force also found that "Throughout 2015, as the public raised concerns and as independent studies and testing were conducted and brought to the attention of MDEQ, the agency's response was often one of aggressive dismissal, belittlement, and attempts to discredit these efforts and the individuals involved. We find both the tone and substance of many MDEQ public statements to be completely unacceptable." The task force also found that the Michigan DEQ has failed to follow the federal Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). That rule requires "optimized corrosion control treatment," but MDEQ staff instructed City of Flint water treatment staff that corrosion control treatment (CCT) would not be necessary for a year. The task force found that "the decision not to require CCT, made at the direction of the MDEQ, led directly to the contamination of the Flint water system."
The task force's findings prompted the resignation of MDEQ director Dan Wyant and communications director Brad Wurfel. Flint Department of Public Works director Howard Croft also resigned.
The Flint Water Advisory Task Force's final report, released March 21, 2016, found the MDEQ, MDHHS, Governor's office, and the state-appointed emergency managers "fundamentally accountable" for the crisis, saying the people of Flint were "needlessly and tragically" exposed to toxic levels of lead and other hazards.
On January 8, 2016, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan said that it was investigating. A month later, they said they were working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the EPA's Office of Inspector General, the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, and the Postal Inspection Service on the investigation.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "battled Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality behind the scenes for at least six months over whether Flint needed to use chemical treatments to keep lead lines and plumbing connections from leaching into drinking water" and "did not publicize its concern that Flint residents' health was jeopardized by the state's insistence that such controls were not required by law". In 2015, EPA water expert Miguel A. Del Toral "identified potential problems with Flint's drinking water in February, confirmed the suspicions in April and summarized the looming problem" in an internal memo circulated on June 24, 2015.
Despite these "dire warnings" from Del Toral, the memo was not publicly released until November 2015, after a revision and vetting process. In the interim, the EPA and the Michigan DEQ engaged in a dispute on how to interpret the Lead and Copper Rule. According to EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman, the EPA pushed to immediately implement corrosion controls in the interests of public health, while the Michigan DEQ sought to delay a decision on corrosion control until two six-month periods of sampling had been completed. Meanwhile, MDEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel called Del Toral a "rogue employee" for his whistle-blowing efforts. Dr. Marc Edwards, who investigated the lead contamination, wrote that Del Toral had made a "heroic effort" that was stymied by the EPA and MDEQ spending months "wrangling over jurisdiction, technicalities and legalities."
In an interview with the Detroit News published on January 12, 2016, Hedman said that "the recommendation to DEQ (regarding the need for corrosion controls) occurred at higher and higher levels during this time period. And the answer kept coming back from DEQ that 'no, we are not going to make a decision until after we see more testing results.'" Hedman said the EPA did not go public with its concerns earlier because (1) state and local governments have primary responsibility for drinking water quality and safety; (2) there was insufficient evidence at that point of the extent of the danger; and (3) the EPA's legal authority to compel the state to take action was unclear, and the EPA discussed the issue with its legal counsel, who only rendered an opinion in November. Hedman said the EPA discussed the issue with its legal counsel and urged the state to have MDHHS warn residents about the danger. On January 21, Hedman's resignation (effective February 1) was accepted.
Assessments of the EPA's action varied. Edwards said that the assessment in Del Toral's original June memo was "100 percent accurate" and criticized the EPA for failing to take more immediate action. State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, Democrat of Flint, said, "There's been a failure at all levels to accurately assess the scale of the public health crisis in Flint, and that problem is ongoing. However, the EPA's Miguel Del Toral did excellent work in trying to expose this disaster. Anyone who read his memo and failed to act should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law." Del Toral later told The Flint Journal, "I was stunned when I found out they did not have corrosion control in place. In my head, I didn't believe that. I thought: That can't be true ... that's so basic." He also confirmed that unfiltered Flint water is still unsafe to drink, and doesn't know when that will change.
On January 15, 2016, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that his office would open an investigation into the crisis, saying the situation in Flint "is a human tragedy in which families are struggling with even the most basic parts of daily life." To oversee the AG Office's probe, Schuette appointed Todd Flood as special prosecutor and Andrew Arena as chief investigator, who lead a team of nine full-time investigators. At a media roundtable in February 2016, Flood said that the investigation could result in involuntary manslaughter charges, if there was gross negligence leading to a death. Critics have questioned the objectivity of the investigation.
In his annual State of the State address on January 19, 2016, Snyder announced that he would release all of his emails from 2014 and 2015 regarding the crisis. The following day, the governor's office released 274 pages of emails. The New York Times summarized, "the documents provide a glimpse of state leaders who were at times dismissive of the concerns of residents, seemed eager to place responsibility with local government and, even as the scientific testing was hinting at a larger problem, were reluctant to acknowledge it." Later that month in a class action lawsuit related to the crisis, Snyder and the MDEQ were served subpoenas for the release of additional emails dating back to the beginning of 2011. Emails highlighted by Progress Michigan in January 2016 indicate that Michigan state officials were trucking in bottled water to some of their own employees stationed in Flint as early as January 2015 in regards to the unsafe levels of trihalomethanes, or THMs, a by-product of chlorine that had been added to the water to kill Coliform bacteria.
On February 12, 2016, Governor Snyder released additional emails between his office and the MDEQ which about the Legionnaires' outbreak. On February 26, Snyder's office released several thousand more emails regarding the crisis that date back to 2011. An additional batch of emails was released on March 10.
On January 22, 2016, two MDEQ employees (Liane Shekter Smith, former chief of the department's Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance; and Steve Busch, former district supervisor in the division) were suspended, pending an investigation, as a result of questions regarding actions related to water testing in Flint. In response, Snyder said, "Michiganders need to be able to depend on state government to do what's best for them and in the case of the DEQ that means ensuring their drinking water is safe. Some DEQ actions lacked common sense and that resulted in this terrible tragedy in Flint. I look forward to the results of the investigation to ensure these mistakes don't happen again." Smith was fired on February 5, 2016.
On July 13, 2016, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy sued the MDEQ over the department's 121-day delay in responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests surrounding Flint, including a request for all emails from Shekter-Smith and Bush from 2013 through 2015 containing the word "Flint" and a list of "any employees transferred, reassigned, or suspended as a result of the Flint water issues." The case was settled in November 2017, with a joint statement saying in part, "The parties also note there are circumstances for which the FOIA currently lacks certainty when documents must be provided. This lack of clarity can foster litigation over what response times are reasonable."
On January 25, 2016, the Genesee County Commission approved a request from Genesee County Prosecuting Attorney David Leyton for $25,000 to conduct an investigation into the crisis. The money will be used to hire two special prosecutors.
On March 4, 2016, a report released by the Michigan Auditor General's office called the MDEQ's Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance "not sufficient" in its oversight of the state's Community Water Supply Program.
On January 14, 2016 U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence, Democrat, of Southfield, formally requested congressional hearings on the crisis, saying: "We trust our government to protect the health and safety of our communities, and this includes the promise of clean water to drink." The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform began their hearings on the crisis on February 3. Democratic U.S. Representative Dan Kildee from Flint gave an opening statement. The first witnesses were EPA acting deputy assistant administrator Joel Beauvais, Dr. Marc Edwards, new MDEQ Director Keith Creagh, and Flint resident LeeAnne Walters (who alerted EPA water expert Miguel A. Del Toral to the problem). On March 15, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee examining the Flint water crisis reveals the EPA, state, and municipal officials attempted to fix the situation behind the scenes according to hearing witness and former EPA regional administrator, Susan Hedman, who cited legal and enforcement challenges as the causes for her actions. Ex-Emergency Financial Manager Darnell Earley, Former Fint Mayor Dayne Walling, and Professor Marc Edwards also testified on that date's hearing. Governor Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before that committee on March 17.
On February 10, 2016, a separate committee, the U.S. House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, held a hearing on the crisis in which Hurley Medical Center pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha; Yanna Lambrinidou, president of Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives, an environmental health group; Flint schools Superintendent Bilal Kareem Tawwab; Eric Scorsone, an expert in local government finances from Michigan State University, and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver testified.
On April 13, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy and Energy Subcommittee on Health held a joint hearing on the crisis in which Keith Creagh of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Nick Lyon from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center testified.
On February 23, 2016, the Michigan State Legislature started a committee to investigate the crisis. On March 1, one of its members, Senator Jim Ananich of Flint, introduced a resolution that would grant state lawmakers probing the Flint water crisis subpoena power over the Governor's office, which is immune to the state Freedom of Information Act. The committee's first hearing was on March 15, 2016.
On March 29, 2016, the state's Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency held a hearing on the crisis in Flint during which residents and local experts testified.
State of emergency and emergency responses
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On December 15, 2015, Mayor Weaver declared the water issue as a citywide public health state of emergency to prompt help from state and federal officials. Weaver's declaration said that additional funding will be needed for special education, mental health, juvenile justice, and social services because of the behavioral and cognitive impacts of high blood lead levels. It was subsequently declared a countywide emergency by the Genesee County Board of Commissioners.
Starting on January 7, 2016, Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell had work crews of offenders sentenced to community service begin delivering bottled water, water filters and replacement cartridges, primarily to residents living in homes built between 1901 and 1920, whose plumbing systems are most likely leaching lead into the water. The next week, he ordered his department to begin using reverse 911 to advise homebound residents on how to get help.
On January 10, Mayor Weaver stressed to residents that it was important to also pick up the testing kits, as the city would like to receive at least 500 water test samples per week.
On January 12, officers from the Michigan State Police and Genesee County Sheriff's Department started delivering cases of water, water filters, lead testing kits and replacement cartridges to residents who needed them. The American Red Cross has also been deployed to Flint to deliver bottled water and filters to residents.
On January 14, it was announced Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha will lead a Flint Pediatric Public Health Initiative that includes experts from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Hurley Children's Hospital, the Genesee County Health Department, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to help Flint children diagnosed with lead poisoning.
On January 5, 2016, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared Genesee County to be in a state of emergency.
On January 6, Snyder ordered the Michigan Emergency Operations Center, operated by the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, to open a Joint Information Center to coordinate public outreach and field questions from the residents about the problems caused by the crisis. 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. The state has set up water resource sites at several public buildings around Flint where residents can pick up bottled water, water filters, replacement cartridges, and home water testing kits. They also advised residents to call the United Way to receive additional help if needed.
On January 11, Snyder signed an executive order creating a new committee to "work on long-term solutions to the Flint water situation and ongoing public health concerns affecting residents."
On January 13, Snyder activated the Michigan Army National Guard to assist the American Red Cross, starting the next day, with thirty soldiers planned to be in Flint by January 15. The National Guard doubled their number of soldiers deployed to Flint by January 18. On January 19, Snyder ordered more soldiers to Flint by the next day, for a total of 200.
On January 27, Snyder announced the establishment of the new 17-member Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee to "make recommendations regarding the health and welfare of people exposed to lead, study Flint's water infrastructure and determine potential upgrades, review Flint Water Task Force recommendations, and establish ways to improve communication between local and state government."
On March 2, Snyder announced the state will partner with the employment agency Michigan Works! Association to hire 81 Flint residents to work at water distribution sites throughout the city.
On March 21, Governor Snyder released a 75-point relief plan for addressing the crisis, which includes programs in the fields of health and human services, education, water supply and infrastructure replacements, and jobs and economic development.
On April 6, 2016, the state began offering up to $100,000 in grant money from the Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund to local governments affected by the water crisis.
On March 16, 2017, Governor Snyder created the Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission and appointed Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Flint's Hurley Medical Center, Rebecca Meuninck of Ann Arbor, deputy director of the Ecology Center; Paul Haan of Grand Rapids, executive director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, Inc.; and Lyke Thompson of Ann Arbor, director of the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University as its members. "Eliminating the risk of child lead exposure will require the coordination and expertise of people across all sectors," Snyder said in the announcement. "Creating this permanent commission will help advance the strategies recommended to better protect Michigan children from lead exposure." On the same day, Governor Snyder said will lower Michigan's "action level" from 15 parts per billion—the federal limit—to 10 ppb.
On June 9, 2017, the MDEQ reported their May 2017 testing showed 90 percent of Tier I samples at or below 6 parts per billion of lead with 93.1 percent of the samples at or below 15 ppb.
On January 15, Snyder asked President Obama to grant a federal emergency/major disaster designation for Genesee County, seeking federal financial aid for emergency assistance and infrastructure repair in order to "protect the health, safety and welfare of Flint residents." The following day, Obama signed an emergency declaration giving Flint up to $5 million in federal aid to handle the crisis. FEMA released a statement that said:
The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Genesee County. FEMA is authorized to provide equipment and resources to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding. This emergency assistance is to provide water, water filters, water filter cartridges, water test kits, and other necessary related items for a period of no more than 90 days.
After Snyder's request for a "Major Disaster Declaration" status was turned down, FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate wrote a letter to Snyder saying that the water contamination "does not meet the legal definition of a 'major disaster'" under federal law because "[t]he incident was not the result of a natural catastrophe, nor was it created by a fire, flood or explosion." In response, Snyder asked Obama for emergency funding under FEMA's Individuals and Households Program, which provides housing assistance and replacement of personal property. He will also ask for money and emergency protective measures, according to the release.
On March 3, 2016, Governor Snyder filed a second appeal for federal help to replace lead pipes and provide medical support and supplies for affected residents which said the estimated economic impact of the Flint water crisis is beginning to exceed $140 million. FEMA rejected his request again on March 16.
The federal response is being led by the Department of Health and Human Services, with assistance from FEMA, the Small Business Administration, the EPA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Office of Preparedness and Response, and the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Preparedness and Response, was appointed to coordinate the federal response.
The EPA issued a Safe Drinking Water Act Emergency Order and took over collecting and testing of water samples, while ordering state agencies to send them previously collected data, on January 21. A week later they advised residents to continue using water filters and drink only bottled water.
On February 12, the USDA extended their nutrition programs for Flint children diagnosed with high blood lead levels. On the next day, Governor Snyder asked for additional help from Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program for affected Flint children. The Department of Health and Human Services granted his request on February 18, providing an additional $500,000 in Medicaid expansion for affected Flint children and pregnant women. On March 3, a waiver request to include pregnant women and people up to 21 years of age was approved.
On March 23, the U.S. Department of Labor announced up to $15 million in National Dislocated Worker Grants will help provide temporary jobs to assist with Flint's water crisis recovery. About 400 temporary jobs at water distribution centers throughout the city will be created through the grant. The workers will take the place of the Michigan National Guard soldiers who have been in place since January.
On April 20, 2016, criminal charges were filed against three people in regards to the crisis by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. Former MDEQ employees Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch are charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence, a treatment violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, and a monitoring violation of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act; former city water plant operator Michael Glasgow was charged with willful neglect of office, a misdemeanor, and felony tampering with evidence. On May 4, 2016 Glasgow accepted a plea deal with prosecutors, admitting to filing false information about lead in Flint water and agreeing to cooperate in other prosecutions. Exactly a year later, the case against Glasgow was dismissed, with prosecutors acknowledging his cooperation and the fact that he was the person who reported the crimes of his colleagues to the MDEQ.
On July 29, 2016, Schuette charged six additional people with crimes in the crisis, three from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and three from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. From the MDEQ, Liane Shekter-Smith was charged with misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty; Adam Rosenthal was charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence, and neglect; Adam Cook was charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to engage in misconduct in office, and neglect of duty. From the MDHHS, Nancy Peeler, Corinne Miller, and Robert Scott were charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to commit misconduct in office, and willful neglect of duty. MDEQ and MDHHS released a joint statement later that day indicating Peeler, Scott, Cook, and Rosenthal have been suspended without pay. Miller retired in April and Shekter-Smith was fired in February. The cases were consolidated for preliminary hearing purposes on August 9, since the same witnesses will testify against all defendants. The Attorney General's office says it has 10–15 witnesses in each case and roughly 50 exhibits in total. On September 14, 2016, Miller pleaded no contest to the neglect of duty charge and agreed to testify against the other defendants. She was later sentenced to a year probation, 300 hours of community service, and fined $1,200.
On December 20, 2016, Schuette filed false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, willful neglect of duty and misconduct in office charges against former Emergency Managers Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose; and false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses charges against former Flint Utilities Administrator Daugherty Johnson and former Flint Department of Public Works director Howard Croft. On November 28, 2017, Daugherty Johnson pleaded no contest to failing to furnish water documents to a Genesee County Health Department employee investigating a possible connection between Flint water and Legionnaires' disease outbreaks. He is scheduled to return to court in May 2018 for sentencing, facing up to one year of imprisonment or a fine of not more than $1,000.
On June 14, 2017, Schuette announced new involuntary manslaughter charges—15-year felonies—against Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, former Flint Department of Public Works director Howard Croft, former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Office of Drinking Water chief Liane Shekter-Smith and DEQ District Supervisor Stephen Busch. Also charged was Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of DHHS, who faces allegations of obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer. Lyon was also charged with a single count of misconduct in office after being accused of having received notice of the Legionnaires' outbreak at least a year before informing the public and the governor, while Wells is also accused of threatening to withhold funding to the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership unless the partnership ceased its investigation into the source of the Legionnaires' outbreak. On October 9, 2017, Dr. Wells was charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office. On December 20, 2017, Adam Rosenthal pleaded no contest to a public records charge, a one-year misdemeanor that's expected to be dismissed provided he cooperates in other prosecutions. It was officially dismissed on September 27, 2018.
On August 20, 2018, District Court Judge David Goggins found probable cause for a trial for two cases of involuntary manslaughter that were linked to Legionnaires Disease against Michigan's Health Director, Nick Lyon. On December 26, MDEQ employees Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch pleaded guilty to misdemeanors in exchange for their testimony against other defendants.
As of February 21, 2019, a total of 79 lawsuits have been filed in regards to the crisis.
On November 13, 2015, four families filed a federal class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit against Governor Rick Snyder and thirteen other city and state officials, including former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and ex-emergency financial manager Darnell Earley, who was in charge of the city when the switch to the Flint River was made. The complaint alleges that the officials acted recklessly and negligently, leading to serious injuries from lead poisoning, including autoimmune disorders, skin lesions, and "brain fog." The complaint says that the officials' conduct was "reckless and outrageous" and "shocks the conscience and was deliberately indifferent to ... constitutional rights." The case was dismissed on February 3, 2017, with the judge stating his court has lack of subject-matter jurisdiction in the matter. Their attorneys filed an appeal on February 6.
The legal doctrines of sovereign immunity (which protects the state from suit) and official immunity (which in Michigan shields top government officials from personal liability, even in cases of gross negligence) resulted in comparatively few lawsuits being filed in the Flint case, and caused large national plaintiffs' law firms to be reluctant to become involved with the case.
On January 14, 2016, a separate class-action lawsuit against Snyder, the State of Michigan, the City of Flint, Earley, Walling, and Croft was filed by three Flint residents in Michigan Circuit Court in Genesee County. This suit targets lower-level officials who (under Michigan law) do not have immunity from claims arising from gross negligence.
A separate suit was filed in January 2016 in the Michigan Court of Claims against the governor and state agencies; that suit alleges violations of the state constitution. In Michigan, the Court of Claims is the only court with subject-matter jurisdiction over claims against the state and its subdivisions.
A new federal lawsuit filed on January 27, 2016, seeks the replacement of all lead service lines in Flint at no cost to residents following claims city and state leaders violated federal laws designed to protect drinking water. It is also asking the court to force city and state officials to provide safe drinking water to Flint residents and require them to follow federal regulations for testing and treating water to control for lead.
On February 2, 2016, a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court was filed on behalf of Beatrice Boler, a Flint mother of two, Flint pastor Edwin Anderson with his wife, Alline Anderson, and a company, Epco Sales LLC. against Snyder, the MDEQ, two former state appointed emergency managers and former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling that seeks more than $150 million in refunds and compensation for damages for "water that was extraordinarily dangerous, undrinkable and unusable." It was dismissed on April 19, 2016, after the judge ruled the allegations fall under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which prevents challenges to the law being ruled on in U.S. District Court and states they must be addressed by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the case should be re-filed in the Michigan Court of Claims.
Also on February 2, a lawsuit was filed in Michigan Circuit Court on behalf of four Genesee County residents who contracted Legionnaires' disease during the Flint water crisis, including one woman who died seven days after entering the emergency room with a headache. The suit names McLaren Regional Medical Center and several Michigan DEQ officials as defendants. Lawyer Geoffrey Fieger represents the plaintiffs.
On February 8, 2016 the parents of a two-year-old girl diagnosed with high blood lead levels filed a lawsuit in federal court, naming as defendants the City of Flint, the State of Michigan, Snyder, Earley, and Walling. The case was dismissed on February 7, 2017, with the judge citing his court has a lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
On March 3, 2016, a new lawsuit was filed in state court by LeeAnne Walters, the Flint mother who informed the EPA water expert Miguel Del Toral of the health problems her family experienced after the water switch, against multiple corporate entities and three current and former government employees for their role in the city's water crisis. On March 7, 2016, another class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven residents alleging that tens of thousands of residents have suffered physical and economic injuries and damages. It argues officials failed to take action over "dangerous levels of lead" in drinking water and "downplayed the severity of the contamination."
On March 8, 2016, a federal class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 500 county inmates against the Genesee County Sheriff's Department in regards to the water quality at the Genesee County Jail. The suit seeks only an injunction that will order the sheriff's department to continue to serve inmates only bottled water and dry food that doesn't require water to prepare.
On March 24, the City of Flint filed a notice of intent sue in the Court of Claims against the State of Michigan, the MDEQ and four MDEQ employees for their mishandling of the crisis. A week later, Mayor Weaver said she has no intentions to proceed with a lawsuit, and the move is to "protect the future interest of the city." On March 25, a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU asked for an order requiring water to be delivered to homes of people without access to transportation or who are physically disabled. The case was settled a year later for $87 million (with an additional $10 million in reserve), which will be used to replaced 18,000 lead pipes by 2020.
On April 6, 2016, a class action lawsuit brought by 15 Flint residents accused Governor Snyder and several state agencies and government officials of being in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in regards to the crisis.
On May 18, 2016, the NAACP sued the state of Michigan and Governor Snyder, seeking compensation for property damages, pain and suffering damages, emotional distress damages and medical monitoring for Flint residents and businesses.
On June 22, 2016, the Michigan Attorney General's Office filed a civil suit against engineering firms Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN) who were hired to consult Flint water plant officials after the switch to the Flint River in April 2015. The lawsuit accuses Veolia and LAN of professional negligence and public nuisance. Veolia is also accused of fraud. Veolia called the accusations "baseless, entirely unfounded and [appearing] to be intended to distract from the troubling and disturbing realities that have emerged as a result of this tragedy," and then added, "In fact, when Veolia raised potential lead and copper issues, city officials and representatives told us to exclude it from our scope of work because the city and the EPA were just beginning to conduct lead and copper testing." Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel amended the complaint on April 12, 2019, stating the companies "made multiple missteps by designing water treatment measures that made the water corrosive. Those failures ultimately resulted in bacterial problems in Flint’s water, potentially dangerous disinfectant byproducts, the corrosion of the city’s water distribution system, and high lead levels."
On June 27, 2016, Flint residents Shari Guertin, on behalf of her minor child, and Diogenes Muse-Cleveland, filed a lawsuit accusing several officials of violating their “bodily integrity” by exposing them to lead-contaminated water and hiding it. The defendants are city and state officials including former Flint Department of Public Works Director Howard Croft, former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose and former DEQ officials Liane Shekter-Smith, Stephen Busch, Michael Prysby and Bradley Wurfel. Several charges in the case were dismissed by the original trial court on June 5, 2017. The charges were re-instated by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on January 4, 2019.
On November 15, 2016, Chief Judge Richard B. Yuille, Circuit Court of Genesee County, entered a Case Management Order, wherein he appointed attorney Corey Stern, of Levy Konigsberg, L.L.P., "Lead Counsel" for all plaintiffs maintaining claims in the Circuit Court of Genesee County for personal injuries and property damage sustained as a result of the Flint Water Crisis. Attorney Wayne B. Mason, of Drinker, Biddle & Reath, L.L.P., was appointed "Lead Counsel" for the Defendants. Judge Yuille called for a small number of lawsuits related to the Flint Water Crisis to serve as bellwethers, cases that will be fully developed and tried to verdict with the idea that they will help attorneys in other cases evaluate whether to settle or take their cases to trial.
On January 30, 2017, a class action lawsuit with over 1,700 plaintiffs against the EPA seeking $722.4 million was filed, charging them with a violation of section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which states, "upon receipt of information that a contaminant that is present in or likely to enter a public water system or an underground source of drinking water, or there is a threatened or potential terrorist attack or other intentional act, that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of persons, the EPA Administrator may take any action she deems necessary to protect human health".
Infrastructure repairs and medical treatment
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On January 7, 2016, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said that estimates of the cost of fixing water infrastructure in Flint, such as aging pipes, range from millions up to $1.5 billion. These figures encompass infrastructure alone, excluding any public health costs of the disaster. DEQ interim director Keith Creagh said that estimation of total costs would be premature. However, in a September 2015 email released by Snyder in January 2016, the state estimated the replacement cost to be $60 million, and said it could take up to 15 years to do.
On January 18, 2016 the United Way of Genesee County estimated 6,000–12,000 children have been exposed to lead poisoning and kicked off a fundraising campaign to raise $100 million over a 10–15 year span for their medical treatment. On January 27, 2016 Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha started a fundraiser for the $80,000 needed for the medical treatment of Flint children affected by lead poisoning. Meridian Health Plan of Detroit has agreed to donate up to $40,000 in matching funds to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint for long-term needs Dr. Hanna-Attisha expects to arise from the lead issue.
At his annual State of the State address on January 19, Snyder apologized again, and asked the Michigan Legislature to give Flint an additional $28 million in funding for filters, replacement cartridges, bottled water, more school nurses and additional intervention specialists. It also will fund lab testing, corrosion control procedures, a study of water-system infrastructure, potentially help Flint deal with unpaid water bills, case management of people with elevated lead-blood levels, assessment of potential linkages to other diseases, crisis counseling and mental health services, and the replacement of plumbing fixtures in schools, child care centers, nursing homes and medical facilities. The Michigan House Appropriations Committee passed the bill the next day, while the Senate approved it on January 28. Snyder signed it the next day.
On January 28, 2016 Democratic U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Representative Dan Kildee proposed an amendment to pending federal energy legislation to add the special appropriation of up to $400 million to replace and repair the lead service lines in Flint and $200 million more to create a center for lead research in Flint. They also said the state could choose to match up to $400 million for its share of infrastructure repairs in Flint. The newly amended bill was rejected by the Senate on February 4. A new $220 million bill to address the crisis was proposed in the U.S. Senate on February 24.
At a news conference on February 9, 2016, Flint mayor Karen Weaver said that the city would remove and replace all of the city's 15,000 water service lines containing lead piping. Work was expected to begin in March 2016. The project will receive technical advice from the Lansing Board of Water and Light, which removed over 13,000 lead pipes in Lansing, Michigan. Lansing mayor Virg Bernero volunteered to provide the assistance. Weaver appointed Michael C.H. McDaniel, a retired National Guard brigadier general, to oversee the group leading the project, the Flint Action and Sustainability Team (FAST). The city government hopes to complete the project within a year, using 32 work crews, with priority given to the most at-risk households. The project is expected to cost $55 million, and the funding sources are not yet secured, but the city plans to seek it from local, state, and federal sources. The crews began working on March 4.
On February 16, 2016 the state hired Flint-based engineering firm Rowe Professional Services to begin the process of locating, removing, and eventually replacing lead pipes in the highest risk areas of Flint.
On February 18, 2016 the state gave Flint a $2 million grant that will go towards replacing lead service lines.
On July 18, 2016 city council approved a $500,000 contract with three companies for the second phase of lead pipe replacements: WT Stevens, and Johnson & Wood were awarded $320,000 contracts to do no more than 50 homes each. Goyette was awarded $619,500 to tackle replacing lead lines at 150 Flint homes. The city is using $25 million in funding approved by the Michigan legislature in June that was allocated for replacing Flint lead tainted pipes for Fast Start's third phase which will replace infrastructure at an estimated 5,000 homes in Flint.
On October 10, 2016 city council approved contracts to replace pipes at 788 more homes before winter. The third phase will be funded using a portion of $25 million approved by the Michigan Legislature in June that was allocated for replacing Flint lead tainted pipes for Fast Start's third phase, which will replace infrastructure at an estimated 5,000 homes in Flint. Goyette will be paid $1,663,300.60 for replacements at 260 addresses in city wards two, six and eight. WT Stevens will be paid $2,306,384 for replacements at 488 addresses in city wards three, four, eight and nine.
On October 17, 2016 the second phase of the program was completed on 218 homes. The project was completed by WT Stevens Construction Inc., Johnson & Wood Mechanical, and Goyette Mechanical. By November 22, 2016, the total number of homes with new pipes was 460.
A University of Michigan study released on December 1, 2016 stated a total of 29,100 lead pipes need to be replaced.
On January 19, 2017, an engineer at the Flint Water Plant said the facility is in need of $60 million worth of upgrades, which wouldn't be finished until well into 2019. On February 7, 2017, another report said the cost would be $108 million.
On February 6, 2017, the Genesee Intermediate School District received $6.5 million for the Early On Genesee program to provide free evaluations to as many as 5,000 children up to 5 years old facing possible lead-related developmental delays from the state of Michigan.
On March 17, 2017, Flint received a $100 million grant from the EPA for water infrastructure repairs.
On June 30, 2017, the Genesee County Health Department's Healthy Start Program received $15 million to provide health and social services for people who have had or are at risk for lead exposure stemming from Flint water crisis.
Long term effects of lead poisoning
Childhood lead exposure causes a reduction in intellectual functioning and IQ, academic performance, and problem-solving skills, and an increased risk of attention deficit disorder, aggression, and hyperactivity. According to studies, children with elevated levels of lead in the blood are more likely as adults to commit crimes, be imprisoned, be unemployed or underemployed, or be dependent on government services. While changes in IQ may appear small from the elevated blood levels, it has been estimated that each increase in an IQ point raises worker’s productivity by 1.76–2.38%, and that the economic benefit for each year of 3.8 million 2-year-old children could be from $110 to $319 billion. In addition, early-life exposure to lead may increase risk of later-life neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, and this risk is likely to persist into late life long after lead has been removed from the body. A 2014 study by researchers at Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan, completed before the Flint water crisis came to light, estimated the annual cost of childhood lead exposure in Michigan at $330 million ($205 million in decreases in lifetime earnings, $105 million in additional criminal justice system expenditures, $18 million in health expenditures to diagnose lead positioning and lead-linked attention deficit disorder), and $2.5 million in additional special education expenditures.
Because the developmental effects of lead exposure appear over a series of years, the total long-term cost of the Flint water crisis "will not be apparent in the short term." However, the cost is expected to be high. Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, an expert in the effects of environmental pollution on brain development, said that "when calculated from the loss of lifetime income, the societal costs from lead exposure (across the United States) reach billion-dollar amounts."
Dan Kildee, Democrat representing Flint in the House of Representatives, along with Republican Michigan Representative Fred Upton, sponsored H.R. 4470, the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act, which would ensure that the public promptly learns of excessive lead levels in their drinking water by setting forth how and when states, EPA, and public utilities communicate their findings. It has passed the House but has yet to be passed by the Senate.[needs update]
Among the Michigan congressional delegation, only Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Cascade Township, opposed federal aid for Flint. Amash opined that "the U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to intervene in an intrastate matter like this one."
In December 2016, President Barack Obama signed Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 (co-sponsored by Debbie Stabenow in the Senate) which earmarked $170 million to address the Flint water crisis. The first $100 million was released in March 2017, by the US Environmental Protection Agency after President Trump had taken office.
President Donald Trump's plan to fix the crisis in Michigan has been folded into his federal infrastructure plan. Trump's infrastructure plan proposes $1 trillion in spending on new infrastructure by offering corporations who invest in infrastructure projects tax credits, with the corporations investing approximately $167 billion. This plan would require a return of 9–10% to investors to remain feasible. This plan has no direct reference to or specific proposal for the crisis in Flint and as of his election he has not proposed a direct federal intervention.
On January 4, 2016, citing the Flint water crisis, Michigan Representative Phil Phelps, Democrat of Flushing, announced plans to introduce a bill to the Michigan House of Representatives that would make it a felony for state officials to intentionally manipulate or falsify information in official reports, punishable by up to five years' imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.[needs update]
On March 2, House Democratic leader Tim Greimel called on Governor Snyder to resign, due to his "negligence and indifference" in his handling of the Flint water crisis. Also on that date, State Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon called for Michigan Treasurer Nick Khouri to resign due to his role in a loan agreement from April 2015 that blocked Flint from switching back to the Detroit system.
2016 Presidential candidates
Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton repeatedly mentioned the crisis during her campaign, saying: "The people of Flint deserve to know the truth about how this happened and what Governor Snyder and other leaders knew about it. And they deserve a solution, fast. Thousands of children may have been exposed to lead, which could irreversibly harm their health and brain functioning. Plus, this catastrophe—which was caused by a zeal to save money at all costs—could actually cost $1.5 billion in infrastructure repairs." In a subsequent interview, Clinton referred to her work on lead abatement in housing in upstate New York while a U.S. Senator and called for further funding for healthcare and education for children who will suffer the negative effects of lead exposure on behavior and educational attainment.
The crisis was also the catalyst for a town hall style debate in Flint between Clinton and Democratic rival Bernie Sanders on March 6, 2016, two days before the Michigan Presidential primary election. It was hosted by CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon. Both candidates called for Governor Snyder to resign during the event.
On January 19, 2016, then-Republican-candidate Donald Trump said, "It's a shame what's happening in Flint, Michigan. A thing like that shouldn't happen." After clinching the Republican nomination, Trump visited Flint on September 14, 2016 and toured the water plant and a Flint church, where he promised to fix the water crisis, and in a brief speech there, he blamed NAFTA for General Motors' abandonment of Flint and the area's subsequent ongoing recession caused by it, saying, "It used to be that cars were made in Flint and you couldn't drink the water in Mexico. Now cars are made in Mexico, and you can't drink the water in Flint. That's terrible."
Lead poisoning and aging infrastructure problems in other cities
An investigative report by Reuters released December 19, 2016 found nearly 3,000 areas in the United States with lead contamination rates at least double those in Flint. The Trump Administration blocked publishing a federal health study on the nationwide water-contamination crisis.
The water disaster called attention to the problem of aging and seriously neglected water infrastructure nationwide. The Flint crisis recalled recent lead contamination crises in the tap water in various cities, such as the lead contamination in Washington, D.C. drinking water (2001), Columbia, South Carolina (2005); Durham and Greenville, North Carolina (2006); Jackson, Mississippi (2015); and Sebring, Ohio (2015). The New York Times notes, "Although Congress banned lead water pipes 30 years ago, between 3.3 million and 10 million older ones remain, primed to leach lead into tap water by forces as simple as jostling during repairs or a change in water chemistry." Inadequate regulation was cited as one reason for unsafe lead levels in tap water and "efforts to address shortcomings often encounter push-back from industries like agriculture and mining that fear cost increases, and from politicians ideologically opposed to regulation." The crisis called attention to a "resource gap" for water regulators. The annual budget of the EPA's drinking water office declined 15% from 2006 to 2015, with the office losing over 10% of employees, and the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators reported in 2013 that "federal officials had slashed drinking-water grants, 17 states had cut drinking-water budgets by more than a fifth, and 27 had cut spending on full-time employees," with "serious implications for states' ability to protect public health."
In the aftermath of the water crisis, it was noted that elevated blood-lead levels in children are found in many cities across Michigan, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Adrian. Although statewide childhood lead-poisoning rates have dramatically declined since the removal of lead from gasoline, certain areas of the state (particularly low-income areas with older housing stock) continue to experience lead poisoning, mostly from lead paint in homes built before 1978 and lead residue in dust and soil. Lead abatement efforts are slow.
Accusations of environmental racism
Civil rights advocates characterized the crisis as a result of environmental racism (Flint's population is 56.6% African American per the 2010 census), a term primarily referring to the disproportionate exposure of ethnic minorities to pollution as a result of "poverty and segregation that has relegated many blacks and other racial minorities to some of the most industrialized or dilapidated environments." Columnist Shaun King, for example, wrote that the crisis was "a horrific clash of race, class, politics and public health."
Flint residents themselves have identified racism as a contributing factor to the crisis. In a qualitative study done by The Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health (CRECH) at the University of Michigan, researchers investigated Flint youth’s perceptions of the Flint Water Crisis. The young Flint residents, with 93% identifying as Black, were asked questions regarding the socioeconomic factors that attributed to the crisis. In these interviews, themes of race, genocide, and oppression became apparent as youth expressed opinions on how their “poor Black city” was stigmatized and deprioritized by those in power. Researchers noted that these results can help academics study the racialized mental trauma and stress among youth who experienced the Flint water crisis.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission later reiterated this belief in a 138-page report titled "The Flint Water Crisis: Systemic Racism Through the Lens of Flint". Its writers said of it, "Policy makers, government leaders, and decision makers at many levels failed the residents of Flint," said Agustin Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. "By not challenging their assumptions, by not asking themselves the tough questions about how policy and decisions play out in different communities, especially communities primarily made up of people of color, those decisions and actions – or in some cases, lack of action – led to the tragedy taking place in Flint." "We strongly believe that the actions that led to the poisoning of Flint's water and the slow response resulted in the abridgement of civil rights for the people of Flint," said Arthur Horwitz, co-chair of the Commission during the time of the investigation. "We are not suggesting that those making decisions related to this crisis were racists, or meant to treat Flint any differently because it is a community of color. Rather, the response is the result of implicit bias and the history of systemic racism that was built into the foundation of Flint. The lessons of Flint are profound. While the exact situation and response that happened in Flint may never happen anywhere else, the factors that led to this crisis remain in place and will most certainly lead to other tragedies if we don't take steps to remedy them. We hope this report is a step in that direction." The Governor's office responded: "Some findings of the report and the recommendations are similar to those of the (Flint Water Advisory Task Force and) the legislative panel and the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee," said Gov. Rick Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton. "The Governor takes the reporting of each of these panels very seriously, and appreciates the public input that was shared." The findings were no surprise for State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich. "The presence of racial bias in the Flint water crisis isn't much of a surprise to those of us who live here, but the Michigan Civil Rights Commission's affirmation that the emergency manager law disproportionately hurts communities of color is an important reminder of just how bad the policy is. Now is the time to address this flawed law," Ananich said. He went on to say, "The people of Flint deserve the same level of safety, opportunity and justice that any other city in Michigan enjoys".
On December 31, 2015, the editorial board of the MLive group of Michigan newspapers called upon Snyder to "drop executive privilege and release all of his communications on Flint water," establish a procedure for compensating families with children suffering from elevated lead blood levels, and return Flint to local control.
Some of the most important reporting on the crisis was conducted by investigative reporter Curt Guyette, who works not for a news organization but for the American Civil Liberties Union's Michigan Democracy Watch Project. The work of Guyette and the ACLU was credited with bringing the water contamination to public light.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has extensively reported on the water crisis on her show since December 2015, keeping it in the national spotlight. She has condemned Snyder's use of emergency managers (which she termed a "very, very radical" change "to the way we govern ourselves as Americans, something that nobody else has done") and said, "The kids of Flint, Michigan have been poisoned by a policy decision." Maddow visited Flint and hosted a town hall with government officials and other involved experts on her show on January 27. On October 5, 2017, Maddow won an Emmy Award for the special.
In January 2016, the watchdog group Common Cause called upon Snyder to release all documents related to the Flint water crisis. The governor's office is not subject to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
Michael Moore, a Genesee County native and director/producer of several movies related to Flint, called for Snyder's arrest for mishandling the water crisis in an open letter to the governor, writing, "The facts are all there, Mr. Snyder. Every agency involved in this scheme reported directly to you. The children of Flint didn't have a choice as to whether or not they were going to get to drink clean water." A spokesman for the governor called Moore's call "inflammatory." Later, after hearing of the Legionnaires' outbreak, Moore termed the state's actions "murder." Speaking to reporters in Flint, he emphasized that "this was not a mistake ... Ten people have been killed here because of a political decision. They did this. They knew."
In a post on her Facebook page, environmental activist Erin Brockovich called the water crisis a "growing national concern" and said that the crisis was "likely" connected to the Legionnaires' disease outbreak. Brockovich called for the U.S. Environment Protection Agency to become involved in the investigation, saying that the EPA's "continued silence has proven deadly."
On January 16, 2016, the Reverend Jesse Jackson met with Mayor Weaver in Flint and said of the crisis, "The issue of water and air and housing and education and violence are all combined. The problem here obviously is more than just lack of drinkable water. We know the problems here and they will be addressed." Jackson called Flint "a disaster zone" and a "crime scene" during a rally at a Flint church the next day. Jackson, in conjunction with the group Concerned Pastors for Social Action, held a major national march in Flint on February 19 to address the water issue, as well as inner city violence and urban reconstruction.
On January 18, Nontombi Naomi Tutu, daughter of Desmond Tutu, said in a speech at the University of Michigan–Flint, "We actually needed the people of Flint to remind the people of this country what happens when political expediency, when financial concerns, overshadow justice and humanity."
On March 7, actor Mark Ruffalo, head of the group Water Defense, visited Flint and called for more federal aid in the emergency and Snyder's resignation while saying, "It's an absolute outrage, it's a moral indecency." Water Defense conducted studies on Flint water in the spring of 2016, claiming it is still unsafe for bathing or showering. Their findings were disputed by Virginia Tech water expert Dr. Marc Edwards on May 31, 2016.
In the third episode of the Adult Swim comedy series Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace, Charles Carroll (member of the group of YouTube comedians "Million Dollar Extreme") delivers a monologue where he describes how viewers can recreate the contaminated water in Flint. In his monologue, the right wing leaning Carroll discusses the concept of tyrannicide with costars Sam Hyde and Andrew Ruse and claims that the situation in Flint is a situation where the violent murder of Republican leadership in the state of Michigan would be justified.
Education and research
University of Michigan-Flint
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Wayne State University study
Wayne State University in Detroit is leading a separate study with five other schools focusing on the Legionnaires' outbreak called the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership. On October 9, 2017 they released their preliminary analysis, which showed approximately 10 percent of all homes on the Flint municipal water system had chlorine levels less than 0.2 mg/L when measured at the kitchen faucet (bypassing filters when present) after five minutes of flushing.
West Virginia University/University of Kansas study
On August 7, 2017, West Virginia University published a study validating the correlation between the intake of lead contaminated water and the increase of fetal deaths along with miscarriages during November 2013 to March 2015. The study was led jointly by Daniel Grossman of West Virginia University and David Slusky of the University of Kansas. The data was constructed over the course of two years focusing on the city of Flint and how the data differs among neighboring cites in Michigan. 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.
William Paterson University/University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Study
On November 6, 2017 a retrospective cohort study was published in the Journal Of Public Health Policy regarding birth weight outcomes in Flint in the early stages of the water crisis.The study was completed using birth data from 2005 to 2015 to assess the birth weights of infants born before and after the Flint, Michigan water supply was changed. Low birth weight was defined as a birth weight less than 2,500 grams. Beginning with January 2014 conception dates, the Flint, Michigan population saw the incidence of low birth weight infants increase from 13.3% to 15.7%. Further analysis, using other counties as controls with similar demographics during the same time period, were then assessed in order to prove these lower birth weights did not happen by chance. 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. The study also analyzed the effects of race in regards to changes in birth weights. White mothers saw a 71-gram reduction in birth weight, resulting in a 2.73% increase in low birth weight infants. There were not any statistically meaningful differences among African American infants. There were likely not enough control counties to properly assess African American birth weights separately. The main limitation of the study was that infants of Flint were compared to infants of other counties. Also, the birth weights after the climax of the crisis were not assessed to see if they bounced back to pre-crisis weights. Increased lead consumption and stress were hypothesized to be reasons behind the increase in low birth weights, but there were likely many additional confounding factors.
Wayne State University, Department of Communication Study
In a study published in the Journal of Communication Studies, researchers conducted a survey on the crisis communications methods used during the Flint water contamination by looking at media use between different racial groups. The results were accordant with past research, where racial minorities generally utilized more interpersonal and social connections as informational resources in comparison to their white counterparts.  Additionally, the study found that “In almost every category pertaining to health effects and other topics related to the Flint water crisis, African American respondents wanted additional information at higher levels than White respondents.” Lastly, researchers found that Instagram was widely used by African-American residents to receive crisis information. The results from this study can further inform government agencies on how to effectively communicate with African-American communities, and use new social media platforms like Instagram to disperse important crisis information.
Other possible causes and responses
The crisis highlighted a lack of transparency in Michigan government; the state is one of just two states that exempts the governor's office from state freedom-of-information legislation. A number of commentators framed the crisis in terms of human rights, writing that authorities' handling of the issue denied residents their right to clean water. Some have framed it as the end result of austerity measures and given priority over human life. Jacob Lederman, for example, contends that Flint's poisoned water supply, in addition to high crime rates, devastated schools and crumbling infrastructure, can be attributed to neoliberal economic reforms.
Robby Soave, writing in Reason magazine, said that administrative bloat in public-sector trade unions was to blame for the crisis: "Let's not forget the reason why local authorities felt the need to find a cheaper water source: Flint is broke and its desperately poor citizens can't afford higher taxes to pay the pensions of city government retirees. As recently as 2011, it would have cost every person in Flint $10,000 each to cover the unfunded legacy costs of the city's public employees." "Flint was a government-made disaster from top to bottom. Private companies didn't run the system or profit from it," Shikha Dalmia wrote in Reason Magazine.
The crisis brought the National Water Infrastructure Conference to Flint in early March 2017. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver spoke on the first day. Dr. Marc Edwards spoke there two days later.
On April 20, 2017 Stephen Estes-Smargiassi, director of planning and sustainability at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, told a forum on lead water contamination at the Harvard School of Public Health that a chain-reaction of failures, including those by the financial managers, allowed the water crisis to develop as long as it did. He stated "What happened in Flint? Well, a firestorm of things that went wrong. (Flint) changed (its) source water, didn't do a good job on corrosion control in their treatment", and added "They had, about half of the homes had lead service lines. Money was more important to the emergency manager than people were. That's pretty clear from the evidence," and later went on to say, "State regulators could have picked up on this, but fell down on the job, maybe worse than that. We'll see what happens to those who were indicted. And the federal regulators could have picked up the problem, but didn't until quite late. All of those things, that firestorm of events, resulted in really awful water quality."
Failed infrastructure and economic decline resulted in the toxic levels of lead in the city's water supply. A corrosive water source was introduced "into an aging water system without adequate corrosion control."
Per Larry Clark, Sustainable Performance Solutions LLC, consulting professionals such as “professional engineers, licensed plumbers, or water-treatment specialists” could have had a positive impact on the outcome. In addition to professional consultation, EPA reform would help prevent another Flint water crisis. Current water-testing techniques can underestimate water lead levels because sampling is sometimes concentrated on neighborhoods with known low lead levels or lead-free pipes. EPA reform could enforce rules that "ensure that all cities get an early warning when lead levels rise to the danger point.", said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Upholding the Clean Water Act passed in 1972 would have prevented an outbreak of lead poisoning in Flint. This act "established the basic structure for regulating pollutant discharges into the waters of the United States". The EPA has also updated its standards and created six goals for improving the drinking water of the nation. This plan was created in November 2016 to decrease the amount of pollution in water.
Using point-of-use (POU) devices could prevent lead exposure. A study at the University of Arizona, Tucson used the Flint, Michigan water crisis to illustrate the economic benefits of utilizing three specific POU devices, which included reverse osmosis, activated carbon, and distillation. Many factors such as “POU device costs, lead absorption from water, and economic losses associated with reduced IQ” were taken into account to determine the cost-benefit of each device. The study found that the water lead level breakeven points for reverse osmosis, activated carbon, and distillation were 7.31 µg/L, 3.73 µg/L, and 12.0 µg/L, respectively. The cost-benefit was analyzed as a 70-year (lifetime) duration, which is much longer than the Flint water crisis, but these POU devices could still serve to be a valuable tool in preventing the consumption of water-soluble lead in the future.
Indirect mental health impact
As the water crisis unfolded, residents experienced considerable anxiety over the physical and mental health impacts of lead poisoning on both adults and children, stress, and anger and political leaders. Some adults felt guilty about giving children contaminated water, and in some cases family members stopped visiting. Some residents related the water crisis to depression and even thoughts of suicide; some sought treatment for mental breakdowns. The state government gave a $500,000 grant to the Genesee Health System for free counseling in addition to sending state mobile crisis teams and expanding Medicaid programs for affected residents. Volunteer social workers arrived from across the state, and the United States Public Health Service offered training.
A study from the University of Michigan provided evidence that demonstrated an association between the Flint water crisis and sleep conditions. Surveys were offered at every opportunity, including by mail, email, social media, and in-person events to as many Flint, Michigan residents as possible. 834 respondents from September 30, 2015 to September 28, 2016 were included in the analysis. In the survey, respondents had to rate the quality of their tap water (taste, smell, appearance), rate the quality of their sleep, list the duration of sleep in a typical night, and fill out basic demographics. The study found that a lower perceived quality of tap water was associated with lower sleep quality and a shorter duration of sleep.
Donations of water and money
As of September 8, 2017, the Ruth Mott Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Flint have directed a combined $33,480,494 to various programs to aid both children and adults affected by Flint's water crisis. This total reflects donations from many of the celebrities mentioned in this section, as well as from other groups and organizations. This money has gone to fund not only immediate aid for the Flint crisis (such as bottled water distribution), but also to build community organizations and infrastructure in Flint. This money has not gone to actually repairing the Flint water system, which remains the responsibility of local and state governments. The Ruth Mott foundation says much of their work is going towards helping Flint's children, in the form of programs for health, nutrition, and education.
Celebrity and corporate donations
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The Flint water crisis has attracted a substantial amount of philanthropic support from a wide variety of individuals and organizations, with donations often focused on bottled water or money. Celebrities including the singers Cher and Bruno Mars, rapper Meek Mill, comedians Dave Chappelle and Jimmy Fallon, and many others have made high-profile donations to assist Flint. A group made up of actor Mark Wahlberg and rappers Sean Combs, Eminem, and Wiz Khalifa donated 1 million bottles of water to Flint. Support has also come from numerous companies, including Detroit based Faygo, grocer Meijer, The Dow Chemical Company of nearby Midland, Ball Corporation, among many others.
The United Auto Workers union donated drinking water to Flint via a caravan of trucks to local food banks, and an AmeriCorps team announced that it would deploy to Flint to assist in response efforts.
Detroit Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah donated 94,000 bottles to Flint, and Terrance Knighton and his Washington Redskins teammates donated 3,600 bottles of water to Flint's Catholic Charities USA. On the same day, rock band Pearl Jam and a large group of musicians donated $300,000 to the United Way of Genesee County, and started a CrowdRise fundraiser for donations from its fans. Additionally, fundraising website GoFundMe promised to donate an additional $10,000 to the fund of the winner of a week-long contest that ended on January 29 between a large number of groups trying to raise money for Flint, while Anheuser-Busch donated 51,744 cans of water to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.
The Detroit Pistons donated $500,000 to the United Way of Genesee County from their FlintNOW fundraising campaign from the previous night's game.
Walmart, The Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé and PepsiCo announced that they would collectively donate a total of 176 truckloads of water (up to 6.5 million bottles) through the end of 2016. On the same day, singer Madonna (a native of nearby Bay City) donated $10,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, and singer Kem donated $10,000 to the Salvation Army of Genesee County. Also, rapper The Game donated $1,000,000 in water bottles to Flint, while FedEx, along with the city of Memphis, Tennessee donated 12,000 bottles of water to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.
A group of nine banks collectively donated $600,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
The LaPorte County, Indiana Sheriff's Office donated 2,300 cases of water to a church in Flint, the Northwest Indiana Truck Club donated 3,500 cases of water to Flint, and NFL player and Flint native Brandon Carr donated $100,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and $10,000 to the Safe Water Safe Homes Fund.
The police fraternity Brothers Before Others donated 330 cases of water bottles, 361 one-gallon (1.3 m³) water jugs and $1,000 to the Flint Police Department. The charity Resources Unite of Dubuque, Iowa collected 300,000 bottles of water for Flint.
Consumers Energy, the area's gas and electricity provider, has donated $50,000 during the crisis ($25,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and $25,000 to the United Way of Genesee County), and its employees are delivering water to Flint homes. It is also matching donations from employees and retirees, up to $25,000.
The Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation donated $100,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
Platinum Equity's FlintNOW Foundation, in conjunction with Huntington Bank, started a $25 million economic development program that will loan aid money to Flint businesses affected by the water crisis.
Two prisons in Northern Michigan donated 29,000 bottles of water to the Genesee Intermediate School District.
Mari Copeny, also known as Little Miss Flint, launched a t-shirt fundraiser that says 'Don't Forget Flint' to raise money for events and programs that benefit kids impacted by the water crisis in Flint. Since the campaign first launched in August 2017, she has sold over 19,000 shirts. In April 2018, Mari launched another fundraising campaign through GoFundMe to raise money for bottled water. To date, she has raised over $125,000.
Donations from religious organizations and groups
The United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, two Flint-area Protestant denominations worked together to launch a water distribution effort.
Flint Jewish Federation worked in partnership with the American Red Cross to help get clean water to homes.
In January 2016, Muslim organizations, including Who is Hussain, Life for Relief and Development, Islamic Relief USA, and the Michigan Muslim Community Council donated and distributed thousands of bottles of water to Flint-area residents. By May, Michigan's Muslim community had donated more than one million bottles of water to Flint-area residents.
Comedians George Lopez, Eddie Griffin, Cedric the Entertainer, Charlie Murphy, and D. L. Hughley performed stand up comedy in Flint's Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center as part of The Comedy Get Down Tour, with the proceeds to go to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
$50,000 raised at the Meridian Winter Festival in Detroit was donated to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
On February 28, 2016, coinciding with the 88th Academy Awards ceremony, Creed director Ryan Coogler and Selma director Ava DuVernay held a charity event at the Whiting Auditorium in Flint. The event, titled #JusticeForFlint, was live-streamed by Sean Combs' Revolt.tv network. Hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress, it featured singers Janelle Monáe and Ledisi, as well as actor-activists Jesse Williams and Jussie Smollett, amongst others. The event raised $156,000.
A telethon led by Detroit TV station WDIV and simulcast on Michigan's other NBC affiliates raised $566,982 for the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. Detroit Pistons owner and Flint native Tom Gores matched the amount, doubling the amount raised to $1,133,964.
A benefit concert to support children affected by the crisis presented by Flint country music station Nash FM 95.1 featuring Granger Smith and Tegan Marie was held at the Dort Federal Center in Flint on April 7, with the proceeds going to Hurley's Children Hospital.
A charity celebrity basketball game called Hoop 4 Water featuring former Michigan State Spartans players Morris Peterson (from Flint), Zach Randolph and Jason Richardson, Coach Tom Izzo, and rapper Snoop Dogg was played in Flint on May 22. Izzo and Snoop Dogg agreed to return to Flint for the same event in 2017, along with other celebrities, held on May 20.
Fight for Flint was a boxing fundraiser at Flint's Dort Federal Event Center featuring Tommy "The Hitman" Hearns, along with brothers Andre Dirrell and Anthony Dirrell; Mike Hernandez, Troy Albrine Jr., Rakim Johnson; and female boxers Jackie Kallen, Fatuma Zarika and Alicia Ashley. It was sponsored by Don Elbaum Promotions and the Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties.
A fundraiser called Fashion For Flint held in late January 2017 helped raised money to purchase 10,000 bottles of water.
In popular culture
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Film and television
The Flint crisis has been the subject of many documentaries, as well as fictional dramatizations.
Lead and Copper, a documentary on the Flint water contamination crisis, was released in 2017.
On June 22, 2016, Bridge Magazine, The Center for Michigan, and Mission Point Press published a book about the crisis called "Poison on Tap". It has been described as a "riveting, authoritative account of the government blunders, mendacity and arrogance" that caused the crisis.
In May 2016, it was announced that Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha was in the process of writing a "dramatic first-hand account" of the Flint Water Crisis. The book, titled, "What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City" was released on June 19, 2018 by Random House imprint One World by editor-in-chief Chris Jackson. Anonymous Content optioned the book rights to make a movie, to be produced by Michael Sugar and Rosalie Swedlin, and written/directed by Cherien Dabis. The New York Times named "What the Eyes Don't See" one of the 100 notable books of 2018.
On January 28, 2016, rapper Jon Connor from Flint released a song titled "Fresh Water for Flint" (featuring Keke Palmer) about the crisis and how it has affected his family. Nu metal band King 810 from Flint also has a song about the water crisis, called "We Gotta Help Ourselves".
In the spring of 2016, Associate professor of conducting at the University of Colorado Boulder, Andrea Ramsey, in reaction to the Flint water crisis, composed a choral song titled, "But a Flint Holds Fire". Children choirs throughout the country have performed the song. Many of the lyrics for the piece come from Christina Rossetti's 19th-century poem, titled "Flint." 
Michigan native and actor Jeff Daniels directed a play called Flint, a "heartfelt and brutally honest story of two couples struggling to endure and believe in the American dream" set in 2014, at his Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Michigan. It ran from January 18 through March 10, 2018.
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Detroit terminated its contract with the city effective April 17 last year when Flint decided to purchase water through the KWA.
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- UPDATE: The Game Pledges To Donate $1,000,000 To Flint, Michigan Amid Current Water Crisis; Rapper Shares Photo Of Bank Wire The Urban Daily, January 26, 2016
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- Here's to Flint 2016 American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan Official YouTube Channel, March 8, 2016
- Murky Waters of Flint. How a whole city was poisoned RT Documentary Official YouTube Channel, June 8, 2016
- Local 4 special 'Failure In Flint' WDIV-TV, March 8, 2017
- NOVA probes chemistry and engineering behind Flint water crisis May 31 The Flint Journal via MLive.com, May 22, 2017
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- Hanna-Attisha, Mona (June 19, 2018). What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City. S.l.: One World. ISBN 9780399590832.
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- "100 Notable Books of 2018". The New York Times. November 19, 2018.
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- Jon Connor - Fresh Water For Flint ft. Keke Palmer Jon Connor Official YouTube Channel
- Flint, Michigan’s King 810 Release New Single “We Gotta Help Ourselves” New Noise Magazine, January 27, 2016
- KING 810 - We Gotta Help Ourselves (Audio) King 810 Official YouTube Channel
- KUTA, SARAH (February 11, 2017). "Composer pens song to highlight Flint water crisis". www.trib.com. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
- 'Flint' play by Jeff Daniels about water crisis to premiere in 2018 The Flint Journal via MLive.com, October 9, 2017
- Clark, Anna (2018). The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy. New York: Metropolitan Books (Henry Holt and Company). ISBN 978-1-250-12514-9.
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- Taking Action on Flint Water – official Michigan Department of Environmental Quality website on the crisis
- EPA documents related to Flint drinking water – from the official EPA website
- Flintwaterstudy.org – official website of Dr. Marc Edwards' Virginia Tech Research Team, which investigated the lead contamination
- Articles on the Flint water crisis from MLive
- Articles on the Flint water crisis from Detroit Free Press
- Five Things – Flint Water Crisis Lawsuits (CNN)
- "But A Flint Holds Fire" by Andrea Ramsey performed by The Michigan State University Children's Choir at the MSU Community Music School Fall 2016 choir concert