Journalist Anna Clark’s book on the Flint water crisis published by Metropolitan Books.
Free bottled water made available to Flint residents after a court order.
This cartoon by cartoonist Nate Beeler, published by the Bay Area News Group,
appeared in the East Bay Times on 26 January 2016. It illustrates the poisons in a glass
of Flint water.
Water Sewage & Effluent May/June 2019
administrator in conjunction with the
State Treasurer decided to revert
water supplies from the Detroit Water
Company to a local pumping and
treatment scheme from the Flint River
as this option would be cheaper. There
was a major flaw in this decision: the
water from the Flint River is heavily
polluted with industrial waste. Recent
studies (Clark 2018) now indicate
that water treatment as well as the
monitoring systems were totally
inadequate to treat the raw Flint water.
In April 2014, when water supply
reverted to the Flint River, Flint’s utilities
expressed concern. He emailed three
people at the Michigan department
of environmental quality (MDEQ) with
a warning, “I have people above me
making plans [to distribute the water
as soon as possible]. I do not anticipate
giving the okay to begin sending water
out anytime soon. If water is distributed
from this plant in the next couple of
weeks, it will be against my direction. I
need time to adequately train additional
staff and to update our monitoring
plans before I will feel we are ready. I
will reiterate this to management above
me, but they seem to have their own
agenda.” Notwithstanding this, water
supply was reverted, marked by a toast
as local leaders raised their water
glasses at the treatment plant.
A few months later, the supply-
switch problems started to surface.
Although the US Congress banned the
use of lead water pipes 30 years prior to
this switch, the regulation only applies
to new water pipes. Many older lead
pipes remain in use – including in Flint.
The result was disastrous: corrosive
water caused led contamination to
filter into households. People became
ill, housewives complained about water
quality and local doctors found indicators
that the lead content in children’s blood
doubled within a year. Complaints
reached the council and state officials.
The federal regulator, the well-known
(EPA), was approached but without
success. After officials repeatedly
dismissed claims that Flint’s water was
making people sick, its residents acted.
Ultimately, civil society supported by
scientists, doctors and journalists took
the matter to the courts – and won.
During investigations, and law suits,
it became clear that some officials
deliberately tried to manipulate test
results. As could be expected, blame
shifting became the name of the game
in subsequent investigations. Council
argued that they were not to blame as