Flint, Michigan's water.

I searched and surprisingly there doesn’t seem to be a thread on this yet. There’s no one article that gives the whole story on this but Google will give you lots of info if you’re not familiar with the problem.


Basically what happened is that, as a cost saving measure, the city switched from the Detroit water system to using the Flint River as its water source, in 2014.

It’s since been discovered that the citizens of Flint, the children in particular, now have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. Testing has shown that it’s from the water. The water was improperly treated and therefore leached lead from the city’s water pipes.

There are claims that politicians, all the way up to Governor Snyder, knew about this and suppressed the information.

So what’s to be done at this point? Who’s to blame? Should there be criminal charges? What can be done to remedy the problem? Who’s going to pay the financial costs of any physical or mental damage to the citizens of Flint?

This article: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/10/06/state-begins-distributing-water-filters-flint/73433652/
says that they’re distributing water filters. Will these filters remove the lead? Who’s paying for them and who will pay for replacement cartridges?

Can it be remedied simply by starting to treat the water properly, or switching back to the Detroit supply? Is there some kind of permanent damage to the pipes that will cause them to continue to leach lead regardless?

Not if there’s permanent brain damage in children, which we won’t know for quite awhile.

Yeah, I am following this on NPR, along with that massive methane leak in Southern California. Flint has really gotten all the bad breaks for the past few decades.

Is there any analysis of the actual danger or damage incurred from drinking this water? I don’t want to downplay it all but the media is just in scare mode right now and telling us everyone in Flint is now permanently brain damaged. Some of us grew up in the era of leaded gasoline and lead solder and I didn’t end up with any dain bramage. Damn snakes, get out of here!!! No seriously, I’d like to see some scientific analysis. Even if it’s not as bad as made out in the media it doesn’t mitigate the responsibility of the politicians and bureaucrats involved as far as I’m concerned.

That’s understood. Sorry if that wasn’t obvious. I meant is it possbile to make the water supply safe again with a reasonable amount of time and expense.

Kids have blood lead levels 2-3x the maximum (whatever that is).
Is that enough to cause damage? I don’t know.

This is a clusterfuck of Biblical proportions. Tons of issues:

1- Michigan allows the governor to appoint an emergency manager to override any and all elected officials in any city or school district in which he deems it necessary. There pretty much isn’t any limit to this power either of the governor to declare it necessary or what decisions the emergency manager can make. In effect, Flint has a governor-appointed dictator.

2- The EM decided they could save money by treating Flint River water rather than by using that supplied by Detroit. But they didn’t account for the difference in acidity for this source as opposed to the other (Lake Huron) and it started corroding the pipes. For about $100 a day, they could have given the water the additional treatment to avoid this damage.

3- To make a few bucks, they took out the pipes that connected the Flint and Detroit systems and sold them for scrap. Now they have no way to undo the switch.

4- When they started getting reports of increased levels of lead in residents’ blood, the state told the residents not to worry about it and that the water was fine. Rather than investigating these claims and attempting to verify them and look for solutions, the state DEQ denied there was a problem.

5- Only after news reports come out does the governor admit there really was a problem and the state DEQ director resigns.

6- The city and state are still not providing drinkable water to the residents. There are some individuals that have begun to distribute bottled water on their own.

7- The governor’s office is immune from FOIA requests and his role in the coverup remains unknown.

In a nutshell, the citizens were being poisoned because of decisions that people who answer to the governor made. The state knowingly lied to the people by insisting the water was safe long after it was determined not to be. The state has so far done little to correct the problem and the governor’s office is stonewalling the investigation.

The US Attorneys Office has confirmed that they are investigating.

Now there are thousands of children with elevated lead levels. How significant is the damage to them is unclear but any damage may be irreversible. All because of the incompetence of people appointed by the governor compounded by their attempt to cover up the disaster in its early stages.

Personally, I’d like to see the US Attorney get to the bottom of this and let the charges fall where they may.

Absolutely despicable what’s happened there.

Slight clarification on point 3: the city switched back to Detroit water in October of last year (it cost several million $ to re-run the pipes). However, there are at least 500 miles of old iron pipes that were damaged by the corrosive flow, and those pipes are now continuing to leach out lead even after the water was switched back.

That’s why point 6 is true - even after switching back to Detroit water, the water still isn’t safe to drink. There’s no real fix to that except replacing all the pipes.

Yes thanks for pointing that out. The pipes were re-installed but the damage of everything downstream from the new pipes remains and the contamination remains, though perhaps at a somewhat reduced level.

Are the kids harmed severely and permanently? Not sure but let’s hope not. I certainly hope the US Attorney pursues this trail no matter where it leads.

Wow. I wonder what it would cost to replace 500 miles of pipes. I’d bet it’s much more than what they thought they were saving by switching to Flint River water.

Just reconnecting to Detroit water already cost $12M, which I’m sure is well over what they were supposed to save. The mayor of Flint said she’s seen numbers from “millions up to $1.5 billion” to replace all the pipes. The numbers at just guesses at this point, but whatever it ends up being, you are quite safe in your bet.

And how long would it take? And what will it cost to supply residents with some alternative while it’s being done?

On the bright side, I guess they have a great jobs program now. :rolleyes:

I did a bit of lunchtime googling. Just skimming through the first few news articles, I’ve seen mentions of children with lead blood concentrations between 7 and 38 micrograms per deciliter, and a big increase in the fraction of children with levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter.

This WHO document (PDF) summarizes evidence of lead toxicity. In short there are plenty of known harms. Among other things, levels above 30 micrograms per deciliter are associated with a 4 IQ point drop, and levels between ~5 and 30 micrograms per deciliter are associated with a 2 IQ point drop. It’s hard to make direct comparisons, since the children in Flint have been exposed for less than two years, and a lot of epidemiological data seems to involve longer periods of chronic exposure.

I’d say that this isn’t an example of uninformed panicking about a slightly harmful chemical that’s a hair over conservative EPA limits. There’s every reason to be alarmed here.

A governor from the party that supposedly hates big dictatorial government. The truth is they hate government that does things they don’t like, but a non-elected dictator that will do what they want? Well that’s fine and dandy.

And in June of last year, when they were supposed to be running water tests to see if lead was a problem, a guy from the state’s DEQ sent an email to Flint’s utilities manager basically asking for samples in a very shady manner: It sounds like he was specifically asking for water samples to be sent to him that contained low amounts of lead, so as not to trigger an “action level” where they’d be legally obligated to notify the public.

From the Detroit Free Press:

They fucking cherry picked the sample sites so the numbers would come in low and they wouldn’t have to act, alert the public, or look like the Governor’s hand-picked Emergency Manager fucked up. It’s such fucking bullshit that the Governor’s office is exempt from FOIA. If that asshole had any knowledge of this whatsoever, he should go to prison.

If the US Attorney’s Office is investigating, I’m pretty sure they won’t need FOIA.

True, but again with this administration, the availability of information is just stuck at absolute zero. There’s a reason Michigan ranks last in ethics and transparency.

Coincidentally when I first heard about this (from the UK Guardian) I was researching a lead poisoning scandal from the water supply in my home city, Sheffield. Acidic water from the Redmires Resevoir was dissolving lead in water pipes causing catastrophic levels of lead in drinking water. This was then a new problem in industrial cities and, although there was the usual amount of foot dragging and denial by the water company, the problem was eventually identified and dealt with.

That happened in the 1880s. 150 years since this hazard and it’s simple solution was identified and it’s happened again. In one of the richest countries in the world. It is appalling and unforgivable.

This almost belongs in the Pit. When the truth is exposed, I predict that a lot of people are going to get into a lot of trouble (putting it lightly).


If their goal is to reduce public trust in government, they are succeeding admirably. Bonus points if they prefer stupid voters—they’ve found a way to manufacture them.