On April 25, 2014 officials from Flint, Michigan switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure for the struggling city. In doing so, they unwittingly introduced lead-poisoned water into homes, in what would become a massive public-health crisis.
The problem started when officials decided to switch the water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Karegnondi Water Authority to save money for the economically struggling city. Before that connection could be built, the city turned to the Flint River as a temporary water source. By May, residents were complaining that the brown water flowing into their homes looked and smelled weird, but the largely majority-African American and poor citizens went ignored by officials. In August, E.coli and coliform bacteria were detected in Flint’s water.
From there, a leaked memo from the Environmental Protection Agency, and several independent studies, warned of dangerous levels of lead in the water. Although the city switched their water supply back in October 2015, the damage to the pipes had already been done. After months of denial and dodging, the mayor, governor and president declared a state of emergency in Flint. Free water bottles and filters were provided to residents to help them cope.
Unfortunately, the crisis didn’t end there for Flint residents. Over a year later, people were still using bottled water to cook, drink and even brush their teeth. The city’s recovery has been slow, as it works to replace 30,000 lead pipes. (In late 2022, the city said it was in the "final phase" of the replacement project.) By 2017, reports showed that the water in most homes was generally safe, but many residents still don’t trust what comes out of their tap.
In the aftermath, residents filed a class-action lawsuit, and nine officials—including then Michigan Governor Rick Snyder—were charged with 34 felony counts and seven misdemeanors. Other cases and investigations are ongoing.