Flint water crisis
|Time||April 2014– present|
|Location||Flint, Michigan, United States|
|Participants||Residents of Flint, Michigan|
The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when the drinking water source for the city of Flint, Michigan was changed to the Flint River. Due to insufficient water treatment, over 100,000 residents were potentially exposed to high levels of lead in the drinking water. 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. As of early 2017, the water quality had returned to acceptable levels; however, residents were instructed to continue to use bottled or filtered water until all the lead pipes have been replaced, which is expected to be completed no sooner than 2020.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Background
- 3 Early water contamination
- 4 Lead exposure findings
- 5 Possible link to Legionnaires' disease spike
- 6 Inquiries, investigations, resignations, and release of documents
- 7 Legislative hearings
- 8 State of emergency and emergency responses
- 9 Criminal cases
- 10 Lawsuits
- 11 Infrastructure repairs and medical treatment
- 12 Political responses
- 13 Other responses
- 14 Prevention
- 15 Donations of water and money
- 16 In popular culture
- 17 See also
- 18 References
- 19 External links
The Flint drinking water contamination issue started 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, there was a series of problems 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 10 people and affected another 77.
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
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 a backup 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 21 – 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 Flint 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 of 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 Miquel Del Toral detects that lead levels in the water at the home of Flint resident Lee-Anne Walters is seven times greater than the EPA's acceptable limit.
- March 23 – Flint City Council members vote to reconnect with Detroit water. Emergency manager Jerry Ambrose overrules the vote.
- June 24 – EPA manager Miquel 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 Public 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 study showing increased number of children with high lead-blood levels after water switch.
- 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 – 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 – Snyder announces an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease occurred in the Flint area between June, 2014 and November, 2015.
- January 14 – Snyder asks President Barack Obama to declare a disaster in Flint.
- January 16 – 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 – Snyder turns down a second invitation to testify at congressional hearing on the crisis.
- March 17 – 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 – Obama visits Flint.
- July 29 – Six state workers are criminally charged, as investigations continue.
- December 20 – Four officials are charged with felonies of false pretenses and conspiracy.
- January 24 – The MDEQ declares the city’s water tested below the federal limit in a six-month long study.
- 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 finds the first genetic link from Legionnaires' disease to Flint's water supply.
- February 20 – State considers ending bottled water distribution in the City of Flint.
- March 1 – 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 time frame.
- April 18 – Weaver recommends staying with the Great Lakes Water Authority, which would reverse a 2012 decision that kickstarted the water crisis. Governor Snyder agreed with her decision.
- April 20 – Six people are arrested at a town hall meeting regarding the crisis at a Flint church for disorderly conduct and interfering with police. The meeting was criticized as violating Michigan's Opening Meetings Act.
- April 28 – Weaver announces 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 tainted 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 says the Flint River was "a likely trigger contributing to the increase in Legionnaires' disease incidence."
- September 15 – Water tested from 138 Flint homes last 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 drinking water system, placing the most blame with the Michigan DEQ.
- October 31 - City council votes to extend its contract with the GLWA for another 30 days while a long term deal is still pending.
- November 21 - City council votes 5–4 to sign the 30–year contract with GLWA.
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, 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.
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; this caused excessive corrosion of the iron pipes. 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.
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 would 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; in reality, the city does 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
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 × 10–6 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), and in some hotspot areas 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). Elevated lead levels in children's blood was shown to be 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.
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, Lee-Anne 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, telling reporters:
It's very possible that the conditions in the Flint River water contributed. We've actually predicted earlier this year that the conditions present in Flint would increase the likelihood of Legionnaires' disease. We wrote a proposal on that to the National Science Foundation that was funded, and we visited Flint and did two sampling events. The first one was focused on single family homes or smaller businesses. We did not find detectable levels of Legionella bacteria that causes disease in those buildings. But during our second trip, we looked at large buildings, and we found very high levels of Legionella that tends to cause the disease.
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 put out a press release that said:
After the City of Flint switched to the Flint River as its water source in April of 2014, we noticed an increase in the number of Legionella cases that were coming to McLaren for treatment, as well as those being reported across the county and at other hospitals. Because of that concern, and concern over the quality of water that we were receiving from the city, we began aggressively testing our water supply. An early test result indicated the presence of a low level Legionella. All Legionella and lead testing continues to show that the McLaren Flint water supply is well within safety and quality standards. It is important to note that no test have ever determined that McLaren is the source of exposure for any patients testing positive for the Legionella antigen, and that there is 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 Legionnaire's 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 who's 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, it was discovered that Dr. Janet Stout, a nationally renowned expert on Legionairres Disease said 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.
Inquiries, investigations, resignations, and release of documents
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
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 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.
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."
On November 15, 2016, Chief Judge Richard B. Yuille, Circuit Court of Genesee County, entered a Case Management Order, wherein he appointed attorney Corey M. 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
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. 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."
After approving Governor Snyder's application for an emergency declaration, President Barack Obama said of the crisis, "What is inexplicable and inexcusable is once people figured out that there was a problem there, and that there was lead in the water, the notion that immediately families weren't notified, things weren't shut down. That shouldn't happen anywhere." President Obama visited Flint on May 4, 2016 to reiterate his thoughts and drank a glass of filtered Flint water to show it was safe.
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 February 28, 2017, President Trump gave a speech to a joint session of Congress asking them to fund his plan.
On March 15, 2017, President Trump briefly met with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver during his trip to a former aircraft factory in Ypsilanti Township to discuss infrastructure funding for Flint. Weaver said she hopes to speak with Trump about the water crisis in greater detail in the near future.
Mayor Weaver will meet with the White House Department of Intergovernmental Affairs in Washington, D.C. on October 19 to discuss ways to address the critical water infrastructure needs in urban communities. She met with White House officials again on November 16 for further discussion of the city's water infrastructure.
Michigan congressional delegation
On January 20, 2016, Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, faulted the state for having "no sense of urgency whatsoever" despite warnings from the EPA about the contaminated water. Senator Gary Peters, also a Democrat, said, "The water crisis in Flint is an immense failure on the part of the State of Michigan to protect the health and safety of the City's residents, and the State must accept full responsibility for its actions that led to this catastrophe." Peters, along with Stabenow and Representative Dan Kildee, called upon the state to make a "sustained financial commitment" to assist Flint "by establishing a 'Future Fund' to meet the cognitive, behavioral and health challenges" of children affected by lead poisoning. Peters also called upon the state to reimburse Flint residents for the money that was paid for contaminated water, to pay the city's legal fees in connection with the water crisis, and to pay for the costs of reconnecting to the Detroit water system.
On January 12, 2016, Dan Kildee, Democrat of Flint, said of Snyder, "It's beyond my comprehension that he continues to treat this as a public relations problem rather than as a public health emergency. Meanwhile, kids in Flint are still being exposed to high levels of lead in the water." Kildee called upon Snyder to request federal assistance, which Snyder subsequently did. Kildee, along with fellow Michigan Representative Fred Upton, also sponsored H.R. 4470, the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act, which will 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.
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."
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.
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.
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, Republican candidate (at the time) 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 Dec. 19, 2016 found nearly 3,000 areas in the United States with lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint.
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."
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.
The filmmaker Michael Moore, a Genesee County native, 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
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.
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."
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.
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.
Failed infrastructure and economic decline resulted in the toxic levels of lead in the city's water supply. According to an article published in the American Journal of Public Health, to prevent another contamination crisis, officials such as Governor Snyder should consult "professionals"[who?] and make "qualified"[clarification needed] decisions. "Snyder and his administration introduced a corrosive water source into an aging water filtration system without adequate corrosion control (APHA)." "I wonder how many of the individuals who made those bad decisions were professional engineers, licensed plumbers, or water-treatment specialists?" asked Larry Clark, Sustainable Performance Solutions LLC. In addition to professional consultation, EPA reform of water-testing techniques that concentrate on neighborhoods with lead pipes could "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). Addressing[clarification needed] the government's neglect in Flint's crisis from infrastructure failure due to the city's economic decline could prevent another municipal disaster.
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 bettering the drinking water of the nation. This plan was created in November 2016 and if upheld should decrease the amount of pollution we see in waters today.
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 lead-in-water crisis.
Celebrity and corporate donations
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.
Singer Cher donated 181,000 bottles of water to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, while the Legacy Group Water Project coordinated with the Red Cross and the City of Flint as well as Bottles for the Babies to initiate the largest volunteer action to distribute water and filters into the city in a single day since the citywide emergency was declared a month earlier. Operation Flint, another volunteer group, also began accepting water donations the same day.
Actress Drew Sidora donated 50,000 bottles of water through her charity Dream Makers and with her mother's Church Journey to The Cross Ministries and Drew personally drove the water to Flint from Chicago and spoke at a local church and handed out the water to residents.
Jimmy Fallon donated $10,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint while a group made up of actor Mark Wahlberg and rappers Sean Combs, Eminem, and Wiz Khalifa donated 1 million bottles of water to Flint.
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.
The company ShowerPill, which includes several NFL players, donated $100,000 in anti-microbial body wipes, baby wipes and water to the United Way of Genesee County for distribution focused on high schools and senior centers. On the same day, actor Jussie Smollett visited Flint and donated $10,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
Meijer announced it is donating $500,000 to three non-profit organizations. $250,000 of this donation will go to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund, and the United Way of Genesee County's Flint Water Fund and the American Red Cross will receive $125,000 each.
A group of nine banks collectively donated $600,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
Platinum Equity chairman and CEO and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, a Flint native, launched a campaign to raise $10 million for Flint. On the same day, rapper Pusha T donated 2,000 cases of bottled water to Flint, and the city of Evanston, Illinois donated $5,000 to the United Way of Genesee County.
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.
The United Food and Commercial Workers, in partnership with Cargill, ConAgra Foods, Hormel Foods, JBS USA, Pinnacle Foods, Downs Food Group and Ryder Logistics donated 125,000 pounds of food to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in response to the crisis.
The Dow Chemical Company of nearby Midland donated $100,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, and its Water and Process Solutions division donated and will install 150 reverse osmosis water filtration systems in Flint homes.
Niagara Bottling, in partnership with Dray Technologies, donated over 50,000 gallons (190 m³) of bottled water to Feed the Children.
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.
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.
Less famous artists also provided some help. EyeVLeague and Awakened Cincinnatians activist groups gathered 2,000 bottles of water at a free concert with local Cincinnati artists, such as Kenny Bryant, Joey Mack, Zeebro Blanka, James Frost, and Skep Bam DaVinci.
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
Movies, series and documentaries
Lead and Copper, a documentary on the Flint water contamination crisis, is scheduled to be released in 2017. Producers Michael Nozik and William Hart are working with Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis and writer Steven Leckart on the film. Flint native and publicist Howard Bragman is also involved.
On January 4, 2016, DTV News released "Undrinkable: The Flint Water Emergency" about the crisis.
On January 30, 2016, IAMHH Temple released "Flint's Water crisis & A Warning for Humanity" about the crisis.
On February 7, 2016, Independent Underground Radio Network released "Flint Water Crisis – Real Stories, Real People, Real Life – A Mini Documentary" about the crisis.
The Family Guy episode "The Finer Strings", originally aired on February 19, 2017, mentions the crisis when Brian and Stewie Griffin are trying to "temporarily" blind Carter Pewterschmidt with a spray of "Flint-water".
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.
On April 6, 2016, it was announced Anna Clark, in association with Metropolitan Books, will write a book called "Water’s Perfect Memory", which will describe “Flint as a canary-in-the-coal-mine tale of how the underfunding of cities across America imperils the lives if its residents.” Its publication date hasn't been announced.
In May 2016 it was announced that Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is writing what has been described as a dramatic first-hand account of the Flint Water Crisis. The book is being published 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.
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 will direct 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 is set to run from January 18 through March 10, 2018.
- Drinking water quality in the United States
- Environmental racism
- Lead contamination in Washington, D.C. drinking water – another case Marc Edwards worked on
- Hinkley groundwater contamination
- 1993 Milwaukee Cryptosporidiosis outbreak
- Toxic hotspots
- Water treatment
- Water pollution
- United Way estimates cost of helping children $100M WNEM-TV, January 18, 2016
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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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- Lindsey Bever, Amid Flint crisis, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo to donate millions of water bottles, Washington Post (January 26, 2016).
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- Recording artist, Detroit native Kem donates to Flint water emergency WJRT-TV, January 26, 2016
- 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
- Memphis, FedEx Team Up To Donate Water To Flint WWJ, January 26, 2016
- Detroit Pistons' Marcus Morris joins Philly groups to distribute water in Flint The Flint Journal via MLive (January 26, 2016).
- NFL players backing $100,000 donation of body wipes, water headed to Flint The Flint Journal via MLive, January 30, 2016
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- Financial institutions offer $600,000 to Flint water crisis relief efforts The Flint Journal via MLive, February 16, 2016
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- MSMS donates $10,000 to help children affected by Flint water crisis The Flint Journal via MLive, February 6, 2016
- Indiana sheriff's office delivers semi-truck load of water to Flint The Flint Journal via MLive, February 15, 2016
- Indiana truck club delivers 80 tons of bottled water to Flint WJRT-TV, February 15, 2016
- Flint native, Dallas Cowboys star announces donations for Flint water emergency WJRT-TV, February 15, 2016
- Law enforcement organization donating water to Flint police in water crisis The Flint Journal via MLive, March 3, 2016
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- Group from Ohio State University delivers water to Flint WJRT-TV, March 16, 2016
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- Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation donates $100,000 to Community Foundation of Greater Flint WJRT-TV, March 22, 2016
- District 60 collects 1,700 pounds of water for Flint residents Chicago Tribune, March 22, 2016
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- Snoop Dogg, Morris Peterson Jr., bringing 'Hoop 4 Water' to Flint WJRT-TV, May 21, 2016
- Acosta, Roberto (April 16, 2017). "Snoop Dogg returning to Flint for celebrity basketball fundraiser". www.mlive.com. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- Thomas Hearns, Dirrell brothers, Jackie Kallen join Fight for Flint The Flint Journal via MLive.com, October 2, 2016
- Fashion For Flint show raises money for bottled water purchase The Flint Journal via MLive.com, January 30, 2017
- Saraiya, Sonia (27 October 2017). "TV Review: Lifetime's 'Flint' Starring Queen Latifah". Variety.
- Oscar-winning director working on Flint water crisis documentary, report says The Flint Journal via MLive.com, February 5, 2017
- Undrinkable: The Flint Water Emergency DTV News Official YouTube Channel, January 4, 2016
- Flint's Water crisis & A Warning for Humanity IAMHH Temple Official YouTube Channel, January 30, 2016
- Flint Water Crisis – Real Stories, Real People, Real Life – A Mini Documentary Independent Underground Radio Network Official YouTube Channel, February 7, 2016
- 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
- PBS shows special screening of NOVA's "Poisoned Water" WJRT-TV, May 23, 2017
- Flint water crisis book focuses on government failures, those who fought back The Flint Journal via MLive.com, June 21, 2016
- RC alumna Anna Clark’s new book on Flint’s water crisis University of Michigan, April 6, 2016
- Wilson, Kristian (May 20, 2016). "Who Is Mona Hanna-Attisha? The Flint Activist Just Signed A Book Deal". Bustle. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
- Funes, Yessenia (May 1, 2017). "A Film On the Flint Doctor Who Exposed the Water Crisis". ColorLines. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
- Acosta, Roberto (January 28, 2016). "Rapper Jon Connor releases 'Fresh Water For Flint' in XXL Magazine article". The Flint Journal. Michigan Live. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- Eminem New Song 2017: New Favors With Sean Knight Can Lead To Arrest Tripped Media, February 8, 2017
- KUTA, SARAH (Feb 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
- 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