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Flint water crisis

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In the richest country in the history of the world, it is not radical to demand that when people turn on their taps, the water they drink is safe and clean. It has been 5 years since the start of the Flint water crisis. This is absolutely unacceptable.
Bernie Sanders

The Flint water crisis is an ongoing disaster in which local and state authorities in Flint, Michigan, stopped the flow of clean municipal water to residents, replacing it with lead-contaminated water. To understand this crisis requires some background in American racism, the insane economics of the American Rust Belt, and human corruption and cruelty.[1]


Flint, MI, is a classic 20th-century American industrial city whose economy relied almost exclusively on the auto industry. The city's dramatic socio-economic decline was documented in the 1989 Michael Moore movie Roger & Me. In 2011, the state of Michigan took over the city's finances due to huge budget deficits. (The state had done this in a number of depressed majority-minority cities.) As part of the plan to close the budget deficit, Flint was taken off of Detroit's water system and switched to using water from the Flint River, not known as one of the nation's cleanest. This eventually led to widespread lead contamination of Flint's drinking water and contributed to an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease.


tl;dr: Flint prospers during the mid-20th century and is abandoned by General Motors in the 1980s. The city empties out except for those too poor to leave, who are mostly African American. Flint goes broke in the 2000s and the state passes a law allowing it to take over cities that are in financial crisis (all of which are mostly black). Mostly-white outsiders slash Flint's spending and look to save money by changing the water source from Detroit's excellent water to the Flint River, a polluted hell-stream. Predictably, the residents of Flint are poisoned, the state denies until they can't, and nothing is solved, no one significant is punished.

  • April 2014: on the recommendation of the city council, Flint's water supply is switched from Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River.[2]
  • August 2014: fecal coliform bacteria are found in the water so the city increases the water chlorination and issues a boil water order for many residents
  • September 2014: more fecal coliform contamination, more chlorine added[3]
  • October 2014: General Motors stops using Flint's water in its plants because the high chlorine content is corroding engine parts[4]
  • January 2015: Flint residents complain publicly about foul, discolored drinking water[5]
  • February 2015: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informs Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality of high lead levels in Flint drinking water
  • March 2015: Flint city council votes to switch back to Detroit water, but the state's emergency manager overrides the decision due to cost concerns.
  • June 2015: EPA reports high levels of lead in Flint water due to high chlorine content corroding pipes, allowing lead to leach into water.[6]
  • July 2015: various state and local agencies continue to delay, obfuscate, and deny the developing crisis
  • September 2015: local physician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha presents results of a study she conducted after learning of lead found in Flint drinking water. The study showed that lead levels in Flint children jumped after the water supply was changed.
  • October to November 2015: authorities continue to drag their feet
  • 2014-2015 Outbreak of Legionnaire's disease eventually kills 12 and sickens nearly 90. It is later determined that the illness was likely caused by insufficient chlorination in Flint's water
  • December 2015-January 2016: city declares state of emergency, followed by declaration by Governor for entire county, and National Guard is mobilized to distribute bottled water[7]
  • That's right, the National Guard was mobilized to distribute bottles of water to an entire city indefinitely
  • June 2016: The Centers for Disease Control releases a report showing that Flint residents have elevated blood lead levels and that these levels coincide with the switch of water supply
  • July 2016-present: various governmental officials are charged with various crimes in the poisoning of Flint. A couple plead guilty to misdemeanors. The state's chief medical officer is awaiting trial.
  • January 2021: Former governor Rick Snyder faces criminal charges.[8]
  • June 2022: Charges were dismissed against Snyder and 8 others because the charging judge exceeded their legal rights in making the charges.[9]
  • October 2023: The Michigan attorney general's office announced that the prosecution of Snyder and others has ended because the Michigan Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on the case.[10]


Because of the prolonged denialism by the state government that harm was being caused by their action and inaction, Jennifer Carrera, an environmental sociologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, characterized what happened by saying, "Gaslighting is a very fair way of characterizing what happened to Flint residents."[11]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  8. Ex-Mich. governor Rick Snyder to face criminal charges in Flint water crisis: "I've always said that I think criminal charges are important, because I think it's criminal what happened to my town," says one local lawmaker. by Kim Bellware & Kim Bellware (Jan. 12, 2021 at 3:09 p.m. PST) The Washington Post.
  9. Michigan Supreme Court orders charges dismissed against ex-governor, 8 others over Flint water by Ed White (Jun 28, 2022 12:23 PM EST) Associated Press via PBS.
  10. Prosecutors say court decision forces the end of criminal cases in Flint water scandal (October 31, 20237:16 PM ET) Associated Press via NPR.
  11. Flint grapples with the mental health fallout from the water disaster: The community is still healing from the crisis that started almost a decade ago by Aimee Cunningham (November 16, 2023 at 8:00 am) Science News.