In 2014, Flint’s un-elected emergency manager switched the city from safe drinking water from Lake Huron provided through the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the polluted Flint River — all in an effort to cut costs.
But the city failed to put in place the proper corrosion controls when it made the switch. The Flint River runs through a very industrial part of Michigan, home to a General Motors facility and DuPont chemical factories. The chemicals used to make the water “safe” made the water corrosive and it began eating away at the city’s lead pipes. Flint’s water is so corrosive that General Motors won’t even use it to make car parts.
Almost immediately after the switch, residents noticed changes in the smell, color and taste of the water coming out of their taps; tests showed high levels of bacteria that forced the city to issue boil advisories.
Samples show off the chart lead levels in Flint’s drinking water. Lead poisoning is incredibly serious. Once lead enters your body, there is no way to get it out. It is especially harmful to the developing brains of children, and can cause permanent brain damage.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality were aware of the high levels in Flint’s drinking water for months and yet they kept telling residents that the water was safe to drink.
Food & Water Watch organizer Lynna Kaucheck has been working with the residents of Flint to ensure that their water is safe and affordable and to hold those that are responsible for this man-made public health emergency accountable. More than 27,000 Food & Water Watch supporters helped bring national attention to this issue by signing a petition calling on city and state officials to switch the city’s water back to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s drinking water system.
On October 16, 2015, Flint’s drinking water source was finally switched back to Detroit’s drinking water. The problem: Flint’s pipes are permanently damaged and continue to leach lead into Flint’s drinking water.
At the beginning of January 2016 the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into how Michigan has handled the crisis in Flint. Then, Governor Rick Snyder finally issued a state of emergency to begin to give Flint residents the help they deserve, but this is too little too late for many of Flint’s children.
State relief may only provide the city with a small portion of the potentially $1.5 billion it will need to fix its broken water system and give Flint children the healthcare they need. The federal government must step in to help provide support for Flint residents.
Stand with the residents of Flint and ask the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency to get the city federal aid.