Flint, Michigan - April 2014 (02:57)
Since the 1950’s GM has closed seven major facilities in the Flint region. Governor Rick Snyder takes power from city officials and gives it to emergency managers to fix the financial crisis. They suggest making a pipe from Lake Huron to Flint to save on the cost of water; in the meantime, the city can use water from the Flint River. (Credits)
Noticeably Bad Water (04:27)
After the switch from Lake Huron to Flint River water, residents complain that the water is brown and smells bad. Leanne Walters and others experience symptoms including rashes, pain, hair thinning, and listlessness; they are told that the system is being winterized. Cincinnati treats its river water with a coagulant, filtration beds, carbon filtration, and chemicals like fluoride and chlorine.
Corrosive, Diseased Water (02:09)
E. coli bacteria are found in Flint's tap water. The city adds chlorine to the water, but that creates toxic byproducts and GM switches back to Detroit water. Officials lie about the safety of the water; Leanne Walters is told give her son Benadryl to treat his skin that burned from bathwater.
Lead Poisoning (04:52)
When the EPA first tested the tap water at the Walters’ house, there were 104 parts per billion of lead; it was considered an isolated problem. An abundance of lead tricks the brain into thinking it is calcium. The average IQ of someone with lead poisoning is lower than a typical person and the effects are passed on through generations.
Where Does Lead Come From? (01:50)
Professor Marc Edwards says that lead gets into water almost solely from pipes. City water mains are made from iron; many service lines to homes in Flint are made from lead along with plumbing components in the home.
Corrosion Control Comparison (05:12)
Scale, a protective coating on the inside of lead service pipes, prevents lead from leaching into water; it can be made of 90% lead. Walters discovers that Flint does not use corrosion control, breaking federal law and lying to the public. An experiment shows the difference between Flint and Detroit water.
Protests and Lies (02:43)
Residents protest and show bags of hair they have lost, rashes, and proof of discolored water. Miguel Del Toral writes a preliminary report on the water situation in Flint and shares it with Walters who sends it to the press. Brad Wurfel lies on television and EPA Region 5 Director, Susan Hedman apologizes for the release of the water report.
Worst Cases of Lead Contamination (03:08)
Walter's son is diagnosed with lead poisoning; she sends bottles of tap water to Marc Edwards. From 2001 to 2010, Washington D.C. suffered the worst lead contamination in modern U.S. history; residents drank contaminated water for three years before they were notified. Like Flint, D.C. failed to add corrosion control chemicals to the water, which is a federal crime.
Lead Contamination in D.C. (02:50)
In 2004, the CDC stated that the children drinking water in Washington D.C. did not have high enough levels of lead in their blood to cause concern. Marc Edwards challenged the findings; a Congressional investigation agreed that the scientific integrity of the study was not sound. More than 40,000 children under the age of two or in the womb were exposed to high levels of lead in the water.
Voluntary Experiment (03:54)
Edwards and his students from Virginia Tech volunteer to go to Flint to test the water. They distribute sampling kits and ensure there are 45 participants in every zip code. Residents are sick, some losing hair and teeth; they protest water quality while the city insists that the water is fine for human consumption.
Experiment Results (03:22)
The Virginia Tech study shows that Flint tap water contains lead six times higher than the law allows. Residents are instructed to not use tap water without a filter, but many residents cannot afford it. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality lies, and disputes results of experiment.
Manipulation of Sample Data (03:26)
Virginia Tech students discover that Flint city officials told residents to pre-flush taps and clean the pipes before collecting water samples. Elin Betanzo convinces Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha to use her access to children's medical records to study lead levels.
Elevated Blood Lead Levels (02:10)
Dr. Hanna-Attisha collects blood samples and finds the percentage of children with lead levels at or above 5 micro-grams per deciliter doubled after Flint switched city water sources. Eden Wells, the Chief Medical Expert at Michigan’s Department of Health, convinces others to investigate the city’s water contamination problem.
Legionella Outbreak (02:06)
Flint’s suffers one of the largest outbreaks of Legionnaires Disease in U.S. history resulting from the lack of corrosion control. In October of 2015 Flint switches back to the Detroit water system, but it will take months to rebuild scale in pipes; over 40% of homes had lead and over 8,000 children under the age of six were exposed to the contaminated water.
Failure to Protect the Public (02:09)
Thirteen criminal indictments are issued to emergency managers, MDHHS employees, and officials from MDEQ. Mayor Dean Walling is voted out of office, and Susan Hedmon resigns under criticism. Officials declare a state of emergency in Flint; over a billion dollars is needed to fix the problem and provide for families affected by the contamination.
Aftermath of Water Crisis (04:12)
Flint residents are provided with bottled water. The city is working to replace 20,000 service lines; 18 million Americans are estimated to have been exposed to lead contamination in pipes across the U.S. Water in Flint is now safe to drink with a filter.
Credits: Poisoned Water (00:50)
Credits: Poisoned Water
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