In April 2014, the City of Flint, Michigan, switched from water from Lake Huron provided by Detroit to utilizing water taken from the Flint River. This was a cost-saving move under the leadership of a succession of Flint emergency managers appointed by Michigan governor Rick Snyder. As a result of the corrosive nature of the Flint River water and mismanagement by all of the appointed emergency managers, the Flint city government, and by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, an unknown number of children in Flint, Michigan (estimates are in the 1000’s), were exposed to dangerous amounts of lead in their drinking water over a period of 18 months. Recently health officials are investigating if 87 cases of Legionnaires disease are linked to the water crisis. 10 people have died since 2014. The Flint water crisis timeline is a critical element in Flint, Michigan history.
Currently, there is no long-range plan to correct this problem. However, the American Red Cross has been coordinating 1000 volunteers distributing bottled water door to door. Filters and test kits are also being distributed. Filters can treat up to 100 gallons of contaminated water.
Exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development and behavior. Even when exposed to small lead levels, children may appear inattentive, hyperactive, and irritable. Children with greater lead levels may also have problems with learning and reading, delayed growth, and hearing loss. At high levels, lead can cause permanent brain damage and even death.
Quick Facts for Flint Michigan Water Crisis History
- The population of Flint Michigan (est): 100,000
- Households: 41,000
- Children under 5 years of age (est.): 7,000
Flint Michigan Water Crisis Historical Timeline
- Governor Snyder appoints Michael Brown as emergency manager of Flint. Brown is the first of the line of four emergency managers.
- Governor Snyder appoints Ed Kurtz emergency manager after Michael Brown steps down.
- Michigan Treasury and Flint city officials review alternatives to using Detroit City Water. Treasury reviews two options; staying with the Detroit water system and using the Karegnondi Water Authority, (KWA), a new pipeline to Lake Huron water under development.
- Flint City Council votes to join the Karegnondi Water Authority, which is under development. However, under emergency manager status, the vote is non-binding, and the council holds no authority.
- Ed Kurtz, Flint emergency manager, fails to negotiate and sign extension contract with Detroit water department citing unreliable rates. Detroit notifies city that it will end its contract with Flint in one year.
- Emergency manager Ed Kurtz hires Lockwood, Andrews & Newman for a plan to switch to Flint river water.
- Karegnondi Water Authority breaks ground for water pipeline from Lake Huron
- Emergency manager Ed Kurtz resigns
- Michael Brown returns to Flint to take back the role of emergency manager.
- Michael Brown resigns the post of Flint’s emergency manager citing family reasons.
- The forth appointed emergency manger, Darnell Earley steps in for outgoing Michael Brown.
- Emergency manager Darnell Earley refuses offer by Detroit Water Department to continue to purchase water. Notes that use of Flint River water will be temporary until KWA pipeline is completed.
- After receiving approval from State of Michigan regulators, City and State officials switched Flint’s water source from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River, immediately prompting citizen complaints about tap water quality.
- An internal report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warned that lead poisoning rates “were higher than usual for children under age 16 living in the City of Flint during the months of July, August and September, 2014.”
- General Motors announces it will cease using Flint water due to corrosion problems in machines due to high chlorine levels.
- Flint is found to violate the Safe Water Drinking Act due to high trihalomethanes (TTHM). This is due to Flint’s efforts to rid the system of E Coli contamination.
- Flint mayor Dayne Walling announces that the Flint water is safe to drink.
- University of Michigan’s Flint campus finds high lead levels on campus. It shuts down some drinking fountains as a result. This is considered the first report of a lead problem in Flint’s water.
- Emergency manager Darnell Earley said Flint would not return to Detroit water, citing a $12m cost.
- Darnell Earley resigns as an emergency manager; Jerry Ambrose steps in.
- Flint residents see the lead level in-home drinking water at 104 parts per billion. Far exceeding EPA’s limit of 15 parts per billion.
- EPA begins inquiries about corrosion treatment. Michigan’s DEQ reports that a corrosion plan is in effect. This is found to be false later in the year.
- A Flint child is found to have confirmed lead poisoning. The source of the lead is the Flint water system. Officials shut off water to the home and connect it to a neighbor’s house with a garden hose.
- In a leaked memo, the EPA expresses alarm over the lack of corrosion control and high lead levels seen in resident water. Admits that they have no idea of the extent of the problem.
- Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech, uncovered a July 2015 memo warning of elevated lead levels in Flint kids’ blood through a public records request.
- MDEQ’s Brad Wurfel publicly begin stating that a study had been done on lead levels and using those results for public relations purposes as early as September 6th, 2015. Ironically, it was used to discredit high lead in water data collected by Virginia Tech.
- Virginia Tech University researchers test homes across Flint. One sample shows lead contamination at 13,200 per billion. 5,000 parts per billion are considered hazardous waste.
- Flint pediatrician finds lead levels in children have doubled since the switch to Flint River water. Estimates are 4% of children have elevated blood-lead levels.
- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant reported that water at Eisenhower and Freeman elementary schools, along with Brownell/Holmes STEM academies, tested above 15 parts per billion for lead — the federal government’s safety standard. One of the schools tested at more than six times the federal limit.
- Genesee County declares a public health emergency. Plans to distribute 1000’s water filters.
- Michigan Governor Snyder states that Flint will return to Detroit City Water. Mott Foundation pledges $10m for the $12m conversion effort since Michigan has no emergency funds.
- On Oct. 16, water started flowing again from Detroit to Flint.
- Challenger Karen Weaver has defeated incumbent Dayne Walling to become the first woman elected as mayor of Flint. Walling had been elected mayor twice previously — to a partial term in 2009 and a full four-year term in 2011.
- Howard Croft, the department head responsible for oversight of Flint water operations, resigns his position on November 16.
- In her first month in office, Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, declares a State of Man-Made Emergency due to problems with the city’s water system caused by using water from the Flint River, saying the city needs more federal help.
- MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow launched a series of reports on the Flint Water Crisis, bringing national attention to the crisis in Michigan and emergency managers’ failure in Michigan.
- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant resigns.
- Michigan’s Governor Snyder directs the Michigan State Police to distribute donated water and water filters to the community.
- Snyder calls up the Michigan National Guard to assist in water distribution.
- Health officials investigate Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in and around Flint to determine if the ongoing water-contamination crisis caused it.
- Residents file a class-action lawsuit alleging the water was corroding city pipes and leaching lead because the state wasn’t treating it with an anti-corrosive agent, a federal law violation.
- Governor Snyder asks the Obama administration to declare a major disaster in Genesee County and expedite federal aid to citizens affected by the polluted water supply.
- U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, wants the Oversight and Government Reform Committee leaders to hold a hearing on lead contamination in the water in Flint, saying it’s Congress’ responsibility to address “a human-made disaster created by the poor policy decisions of elected and career government officials.
- President Obama declares that an emergency exists in the State of Michigan and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions in the area affected by contaminated water.
- Governor Snyder reviews the Flint Water Crisis in his State of the State address. Announces $28m in state funding and announces that all email communication on the Flint crisis will be made public.
- President Obama remarks at the United Auto Worker’s General Motors training center in Detroit. “And I know that if I were a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids’ health could be at risk. That’s why over the weekend, I declared a federal emergency in Flint.”
- Water testing coordinated by the EPA shows samples exceeding 150 parts per billion. At this level, filters may be ineffective for the removal of lead from drinking water.
- Congressional oversight hearings begin on the Flint Water Crisis. U.S. Marshals asked to “hunt … down” former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley to force him to testify in hearings.
- Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller introduces a $1 Billion emergency aid bill to replace Flint’s water system.
- Federal judge David M. Lawson directed the Michigan state officials and the City of Flint to deliver bottled water door-to-door to those homes without a properly installed and maintained faucet filter
- A lawsuit filed by the ACLU and NRDC results in Flint coming up with a plan to replace the city’s 1,000s of lead water pipes. Funding comes from the state of Michigan. The outcome also results in extended funding for complete tap water testing, a faucet filter installation, and a training program. Free bottled water will continue to be delivered through the summer months. Health programs are established for those residents affected by Flint’s tainted water.
Credits for the information provided by Michigan Public Radio, Mlive.com, US Census, US Centers for Disease Control, MSNBC, ABC News, NRDC, and various news and information services.
Related Links to the Flint Water Crisis
Related Reading Flint Water Crisis Timeline
- Five Things I Learned Volunteering for the Flint Water Crisis
- The Emergency Ark by Scott Hocking
- How to Prepare for a Cold Weather Emergency
- What to Include in Your Emergency Car Kit