Featured Media Resource: VIDEO: Here’s How Flint’s Water Crisis Happened (CNN)
Hear a summary of the information available to the state regarding the Flint water crisis, the decisions they made and their responses to the public.

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Will the water crisis in Flint, Michigan motivate government officials to respond more efficiently in the face of future health and environmental crises? #DoNowUFlint

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Learn More about the Flint Water Crisis

It seems as though you can’t turn on the TV or surf the Internet without hearing about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.  For a year and a half, residents of Flint were drinking water contaminated with lead—“a potent, know, irreversible neurotoxin,” says Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, which can cause learning disabilities in children. The crisis, now officially recognized as a state of emergency on a national level, has sparked interest in human rights organizations around the world.

It all began in 2014, when the City of Flint—where 40 percent of the residents live in poverty and a majority of the residents are black—in a cost-saving measure, switched their water supply from Detroit’s drinking water, sourced from Lake Huron, to the Flint River. Many sources mention a study in 2011 that found that he river water would need to be treated with anti-corrosive agents in order to make the water safe to drink, in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. The anti-corrosive agents were important because the pipes that had been in use in Flint for decades were old and contained lead. However, the Department of Environmental Quality decided not to add the anti-corrosives to the water. The day of the switch, April 25, 2014, Flint’s department of public works director Howard Croft stated in a press release, “The test results have shown that our water is not only safe, but of the high quality that Flint customers have come to expect. We are proud of the end result.” Once the corrosive water was flowing through the pipes, though, the damage was done. Residents complained of filthy drinking and bathing water, getting sick, and developing rashes, yet the government repeatedly assured them that everything was fine.

Government officials are now trying to find out how this all happened. How was contaminated water allowed to flow to the taps of Flint residents for a year and a half, and all the while they were told it was safe to drink? Investigations have commenced, launched by the federal government, Governor Snyder and Michigan’s attorney general Bill Schuette, and some key officials in the crisis have resigned. For now, Flint’s residents are relying on bottled water, filters and lead tests being distributed by the National Guard, state and local authorities, and volunteer organizations. Although Governor Snyder has apologized and stated that he was giving an additional $2 million to Flint to replace the contaminated water system, there has been an overall concern by residents about what seems to be a lack of solid plans for the future.

What do you think we, as citizens, and they, as government officials, have learned from this crisis? Do you think that lessons learned from the Flint water crisis will motivate governments to respond more quickly in the face of future environmental or health crises?

More Resources

Article: The Conversation
Will Anyone Be Prosecuted in the Flint Water Crisis?

This article, written by a professor of law, describes the laws that the City of Flint violated, who is investigating the crisis, and potential charges for those involved.

Article with Infographics: FiveThirtyEight
What Went Wrong In Flint

A step by step outline of the decisions that started the crisis, leading up to the plans that have been put into action thus far.

Video: PBS NewsHour
State Investigator Named to Flint Water Crisis Probe

A former prosecutor has been chosen to investigate the Flint water crisis by Michigan’s attorney general, but this choice leaves people with questions about how independent the investigation will be.

Timeline: The New York Times
Events That Lead to Flint’s Water Crisis

This timeline chronicles the events of the Flint water crisis from April 2014 to January 2016.

Video: CNN
Michigan Officials Absent at Flint Water Crisis Hearing

View a news report of the congress committee meeting over the Flint crisis.

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This post was written by Taylor Maxson, Maribeth Eickenhorst, Christina Hernandez, Camron Grant, Michael Hilton and Fatima Javed, students at Lonestar College-Kingwood.

KQED Do Now U is a bi-weekly activity in collaboration with SENCER. SENCER is a community of transformation that consists of educators and administrators in the higher and informal education sectors. SENCER aims to create an intelligent, educated, and empowered citizenry through advancing knowledge in the STEM fields and beyond. SENCER courses show students the direct connections between subject content and the real world issues they care about, and invite students to use these connections to solve today’s most pressing problems.

Will the Flint Water Crisis Motivate More Efficient Responses in the Future? 14 July,2017SENCER

  • Monica Disch

    I think the water crisis will motivate the government to do something because this crisis affected the health of many people. Each response the state did caused worse and worse problems and many residents grew VERY angry. I truly hope that with these residents fighting for the health of their families, the government will step in to help them. The governemnt needs to put the people first and this issue is truly affecting the people in a negative way. The contamination and toxics in the water can seriously hurt these people and it is the government’s duty to fix this. Clearly, the state is not able to fix this because they’re trying to “butcher” around it. The government needs to put their foot down and protect it’s individuals. I think after the responses of the people the government should be readily movitated to help these people.

  • Samantha Oliveri

    Due to the water crisis, I think that the government will begin to intervene to correct the problem because of how many lives it is affecting. However, the fact that the government did not take action sooner is mind blowing especially since children were developing learning disabilities from this problem. I think it is safe to say that residents who live in Flint, Michigan are very angry because this issue has been occurring for nearly a year and a half. The state did not do a good job resolving the problem especially when given $2 million dollars to replace the entire water system. They left residents unsure of the plans for the future. I am hoping that this water crisis will be corrected very soon because families are in danger. Instead of seeing the problem as small or “fine”, they should take initiative now so that the problem does not get any worse.

  • Dr. Brian R. Shmaefsky

    Check out what various groups are doing about the address the “Flint” issue and related environmental injustice incidents: http://www.signforgood.com/flintdebate/?code=350&utm_medium=email and http://www.ushrnetwork.org/resources-media/flintwatercrisis-resources.

  • jskdn

    A useful source to better understand the Flint water issue might be flintwaterstudy.org which is a group of people from Virginia Tech.

  • Alyssa Tower

    As much as I hope that this crisis will affect future health crises, I am not very sure that it will. An example that comes to mind is the happenings in the Detriot City Public Schools-there is mold everywhere, fungal mushrooms growing out of the walls, and still nothing is being done. Though I cannot tell you exactly why it takes the government so long to respond to such obvious issues as these, I do think a lot of officials consider factors such as funding, consulting, etc. for too long rather than just stepping up and being the one to take action to fix the problem more effectively. Though I think maybe this particular region may now take water quality more seriously, I am not hopeful this will be a nationwide trend.

  • Micah Wortham

    This is one of the saddest situations I have ever seen. Let’s look at the BIG picture here. Not only do you have the water crisis in Flint, other areas are popping up on the radar as well. Aside from the tremendous increase in earthquakes, reports are now coming in as lead levels rise in Central Oklahoma. In Southern California, methane gas had been leaking since October 23, 2015, it was finally capped just 1-2 weeks ago. These departments that are ran by the state are getting out of hand. I do understand that these state agencies may not have the manpower, but that is what happens when society opt-in to cut state taxes, budgets are cut & moved to other areas of interest (and it’s not education). Consider this, if you think that cutting state taxes & budgets are a good thing, you might want to reconsider that strategy before it becomes an unwelcome guest knocking on your front door.

  • Cal Moore

    The Flint water crisis will motivate more efficient
    responses in the future. I live in the state of Michigan and I have been
    hearing about the water crisis in Flint for about a year now and nobody has
    done anything about it. The federal government has done nothing about and
    nobody seems to have a big issue about it. That’s where people are wrong: the
    chemicals in the water are so high that no one can even drink it. Michigan and
    the Flint community have done little things here and there like giving the
    residents of Flint clean water and also helped them live substantially. But
    nothing major has even happened, and that’s why the people of Flint are so mad
    at the government, they believe it should be a national issue and so do I. “It
    all began in 2014, when the City of Flint—where 40 percent of the residents
    live in poverty and a majority of the residents are black—in a cost-saving
    measure, switched their water supply from Detroit’s drinking water, sourced
    from Lake Huron, to the Flint River. (CNN)” It all finally became
    recognized in the year 2016, a year in a half after it happened. That shows how
    much the government cares about the water crisis in Flint and that should spark
    other tragedies like Flint to be solved in a national matter. The water crisis
    in Flint was not a national matter until 2016, and that is a big deal because
    the government does not care about the people of Flint and that is a bad sign
    for the government. This has literally been going on for a year and a half, and
    it is finally being noticed. The government needs to step up on involving more crises’
    in a national way. “In August, E. coli was found in the city’s water,
    forcing Flint to issue multiple advisories to residents to boil the water
    before use.(fivethirtyeight)” that is how it all happened and people are
    still drinking the water today, because they can’t afford to have clean water
    at their houses, usually only the poor drink the unsanitary water. Now that the
    Flint water crisis is a national matter, what are they going to do about it? I
    don’t even know, but they better do something soon.

  • Reed Moore

    Flint’s water crisis has been an ongoing issue for many months now. The state of Michigan knew about the issue, but didn’t say anything to Flint or its residents for a long time. This caused the water to become very unsafe and have very high led levels. In the video “Here’s How Flint’s Water Crisis Happened (CNN)” they talked about how the switch from the Detroit river to the Flint River was a big mistake. They switched from safe drinking water to unsafe contaminated water just to save a few dollars. They also said that the city of Flint had terrible ways to help the citizens clean their water. They city told the people to, “boil their water before drinking it, but by doing this you can actually increase the led levels”. This caused the citizens of Flint to become outraged and they become tired and sick of the lack of effort from their city to make the water clean again. If the city of Flint knew the water was bad why did they wait a year to tell people about it. If they didn’t wait people may not have become sick from drinking the water.

    In the article “Will anyone be prosecuted in the Flint water crisis”? They talk about if someone should be prosecuted for letting the water be contaminated for this long and no one saying anything about it. It says, “Understandably, critics are demanding criminal prosecution of somebody for this debacle”. It says that whoever is responsible for this could be charged with tampering with public water systems because they knew the water was bad and didn’t say anything. This offense isn’t to major, but it would still hurt this persons reputation.

    In the article “Events That Led to Flint’s Water Crisis” they talk about the events that made the Flint water as bad as it is today. The first issue they said started all of this is, “The city switches its water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River. The switch was made as a cost-saving measure for the struggling, majority-black city. Soon after, residents begin to complain about the water’s color, taste and odor and to report rashes and concerns about bacteria”. This was a big issue because the water they had before was clean and still affordable, but Flint tried to be cheap and switch their water to save a few bucks. The next issue that really makes me mad is in January 2015, “Detroit’s water system offers to reconnect to Flint, waiving a $4 million connection fee. Three weeks later, Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager, Jerry Ambrose, declines the offer”. This means that Flint could’ve switched their water back and fixed all of these issues, but for some reason they declined this amazing offer. Then a year later, “President Obama declares a state of emergency in the city and surrounding county, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide up to $5 million in aid”. The water got so bad that we have to send 5 million dollars’ worth of aid in just water, in my opinion they could’ve fixed this problem a year ago and none of this would’ve been necessary.

    So yes, I do believe that the Flint water crisis will trigger more effective responses in the future because people won’t want their cities to end up like Flint, begging for water.

  • collin welham

    Residents in flint were told there
    tap water was safe. When the state knew that is was far from safe. In a few
    homes that were tested more than a few came back showing the levels of lead in
    the water were so high it can be considered hazardous waste. This is how trust
    issue are made. How can this happen? The answer is greed. [VIDEO] “The problem came about two years prior when flint switched
    from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River in order to save money”. What happened
    to safety first, that all lives matter? Early test show fecal coliform bacteria
    in the water. So to mask the problem the state added chlorine to the water and
    put out a notice to boil all water before use, eating drinking cooking etc.

    The this the baffles me the most is
    that this has been going on for 2 years now How does a problem of this significance
    go for so long. All just to save some money.[timeline:thenewyorktimes]The city of flint even forged a document
    trying to say the water was safe knowing it wasn’t. so now they were caught red
    handed and instead of finding a solution they tried to cover their tracks and
    continue positing the people of flint.[oct.
    2014]Gm released an article stating they stopped using the water in flint
    because it was eroding the car parts! So if it erodes metal what is it doing to
    the people of flint and how much is this going to affect them. But that was
    never a thought in the minds of the money hungry people behind this.

  • Matt

    Water is undoubtedly a human right, and what we are seeing in Flint, Michigan is absolutely disgusting. It is an example of people’s rights being infringed upon over an attempt to save money by cutting needed regulation.


    Unsurprisingly, 18 cities are reporting that there are lead levels higher than what we see in Flint. It seems to be when authority figures in Government cut regulation costs of essentials such as water, there is a massive long-term hit.

    What can we take away from this? It seems that when politicians fail to bother improving infrastructure or cut costs, there is a significant long term negative effect on the people who get nothing out of cutting costs or aging, broken infrastructure. With only 1% of the planet’s water being suitable for consumption, how much more water will be cut from that number?

    Who could possibly be against funding emergency aid? Apparently someone running for president. Or atleast, someone who WAS against it, but is now for it because they realized it would hurt their campaign. Ted Cruz. All it took was ONE senator to say ‘no’ to emergency funding. And that person was Ted Cruz, a presidential candidate.

    Sadly, and idiot’s legacy lives on. Senator Mike Lee of Utah thinks the U.S should not be involved with Flint. Again, more violations of human rights. It appears to be a slippery slope.

    What does this mean? It means pay attention to our politicians, because just one fool with too much power can hurt people by the millions. Don’t take my word for it, though. Just look at what history has to say.

  • Bridget Trogden

    I think that you have raised an interesting issue. I don’t know if this will get the attention of public officials in other places. There are a lot of public outcries by many, but there are also a lot of American who seem to disengage with the plight of “the other.” Just looking at demographics, Flint is majority African American with a median household income below the national average. Too often, waste/pollution/substandard living conditions end up being relegated to our poorer citizens.

  • Matthew Luna

    I think that the Flint water crisis could’ve been avoided by many ways. The residents of Flint were told that their water was safe when it actually wasn’t. Most of the homes that were tested came back with results that were considered hazardous waste. If Flint was upfront about the water crisis and how the amounts of lead were unsafe, I believe that this crisis could’ve been avoided.

  • Victor Roy

    I believe that the Flint crisis is going to motivate the responses because seeing what has happened to the people in Flint is going to make them work to show that they will pick it up so people don’t become mad and complain to get them out of it. They need to be able to keep them happy so complaints are filed and the people are replaced by somebody else to fix it.

  • Griselda Zaragoza

    The Flint Water crisis is a serious issue to discuss. The state had known about this and didn’t even do anything about it at first. The water had been contaminated with lead, which could have caused learning disabilities in children. People who drank the water got sick, got rashes, they had even found fecal bacteria in the water. The water in one person’s house had such a high level of lead that it could have been considered hazardous. You see the kind of harm this has lead to. It had been declared as a state of emergency.

  • Marc Ramirez

    This is a serious issue that endangers thousands of innocent people. The government tried to cut corners and save money but in the end it ended up costing more time and money and created more damage.

  • Kevin Bettencourt

    What happened in Flint is a very serious issue. Water is a human right and should be protected. I think the government needs to check out other cities to see if other officials are lying about how healthy there water is and other issues they could be lying about.

  • Angelina Felix

    The Flint Water crisis. The flint water crisis is a very dangerous situation, because people are being poisoned by lead, and they can die. The state knew about the lead all along and didn’t bother saying anything about it. They have waited a year and a half to see if water would clean up. The pipes that were being used were old, and were contained with lead. The water people were drinking was brown and all had lead in it, many people started getting very sick.

  • Crystal Iniguez

    I believe this crisis could’ve been avoided if brought out and was discussed about because the water was harming many people.The state should be in charge that people don’t get harmed.

  • Andi Vang

    I’m happy there is a Earth Day because it has really help us and the world out. Thank you Earth Day

  • Josue Gonzalez

    I felt that this crisis was avoidable. I think there were various precautions and decisions made that were incorrect, and would leave room for some amendments to be made.

  • Ouida Mccullough

    The Flint water crisis is an atrocity that could’ve easily been prevented had the mayor and all his staff would’ve done their jobs. The mayor of Flint should’ve known that they shouldn’t have changed the water source to the Flint River because he and all his staff knew that the Flint River was corrosive. They did this in an attempt to save the city money because it was starting to become expensive to obtain water from Detroit Michigan’s water source. This is a gross act of negligence and the officials this happened under need to be reprimanded, because they were looking to cut corners so much that they didn’t even care about the well being of the people in their city. One of the worst things about this whole ordeal besides the fact that the citizens of Flint couldn’t use the water, was the fact that they were still required to pay their water bills even though the water was completely unusable. Not only that but the lead in Flints water has been linked to the deadly Zika virus which causes birth defects in newborns.

  • Ceceilia Bargas

    I think that the Flint water crisis will motivate more efficient responses in the future because it shouldn’t have ever happened. We have the ability to provide clean drinking water to people and they chose the cheaper way to change water supply. Also the fact that they didn’t tell people what was really going on and allowed people to get sick and some actually died. So, this probably won’t happen again because people know what they are dealing with and they will get even angrier if it happens again.

  • Luke Bird

    The Flint water crisis is something that should not have happened. If the states officials would have admitted their mistakes, no one would have kept drinking the poisoned water. This crisis started a year ago, and it took way too long for Michigan to admit that the water does have lead in it, and it is poisonous. I think this will motivate more efficient responses in the future. If this happens in another town, everyone will know what is going on.

  • Carissa Day

    I think the the Flint water crisis will motivate more efficient responses in the future. For starters, the incident shouldn’t have happened, officials should have warned residents the water was contaminated. By doing so, their would have been less complications, less sicknesses, and even less death. I think after this incident, looking back the officials will see all of the problems they created, and deaths and this will encourage them to open up next time if there ever is a complication to avoid results that were seen in the Flint water crisis.

  • Velicity

    I believe with the crisis becoming a great concern due to the possibility of other areas having the same problem it has the potential to make a change. The everyday people who have became aware of the crisis have definitely became more cautious and alert to the problem. The biggest question is if tit will get the officials attention to have them start making a change to help.I believe there will at least be a slight change in how people look are the crisis with the attention it gets.

  • Briana Padron

    I think that the crisis that happened in Flint was something horrible. People use water for a lot of things and I think that government officials were taking too long to do something. I think that this will help the in future so this won’t happen again.

  • Luis Huirache

    I believe they should do something about the water crisis.There’s a lot of people getting exposed to high levels of lead,which they are risking their chances of kidney failure or death.They shouldn’t switched their water system without their permission.

  • Litzy Ochoa

    I think the government needs to step up and try to help these poor families that are suffering because of them. I also think the Flint Water Crisis can be the cause of many illnesses and hard times with families.There will at least be a slight change in how people look are the crisis with the attention it gets.

  • Savanna Luangviseth

    The flint water crisis will motivate more efficient response in the future because this incident was a horrible one and it will make sure that officials watch out.

  • Jam Thao

    They should take action for water is a very important main source. This should be a motivation because no one would want to have a lead, contaminated, dirty water source just for a “Cheaper price” for the state.

  • Ana Gomez

    The Flint water crisis is a very serious issue, The state should’ve tried harder and payed more attention to the issue. Water is very important. People are involved with water everyday so the water being contaminated puts them in danger. I liked how hard the town fought for the issue.

    • Gerald Peters

      Exactly, a more proactive approach to crisis like these not only saves massive amounts of money for the state, but helps to protect those people who rely on the services for their everyday needs. Without the government regulating these services, it will be impossible for people to continue to live there. #myCMSTArgs

  • Daniel Bernabe

    Knowing the water in Flint was contaminated with toxic things like lead and not doing anything was really wrong. The people protested for the problem to be fixed. The State of Michigan finally did something to fix it but they can’t undo the damage that has been done and save all the people who were affected by this water. Hope this doesn’t ever happen again anywhere in the U.S.

  • Payton Usher

    Water is probably the most important source that we use on an everyday basis, and the fact that government officials had no sense of urgency to do something about the Flint water crisis is an issue. I believe this crisis will motivate government officials to respond quicker to future environmental and health problems.

  • Lucifer Reagan

    Flint’s water crisis should be fixed by the government and the company that originally did the piping. The original company should have to pay for damages and to anyone who is sick due to the lead poisoning. Properly line pipes should prevent any further damages and allow the water to be filtered.

  • Gerald Peters

    The ongoing crisis only goes to show the inefficiency with which the government handles infrastructure. Mismanagement of funds is what has allowed this to become so bad, however because this mismanagement has been revealed to the constituents, i believe this will force government officials to become faster at responding to future issues that arise. #myCMSTArgs

  • Hunter Richards

    I think it is kind of fair for us to do. What if it was reversed? Where animals needed to kill us to live off of us?

  • Collin Chang

    The Flint water crisis shows exactly what’s wrong with the government response time. Water is one of the most important things in everyday life, and the government did nothing about this crisis for a year and a half. As you may have seen in the news, this crisis has sparked outrage from all over the country, which would hopefully show what’s wrong with the government. What strikes me most is the fact that this crisis was 100% preventable. The Department of Environmental Quality should have added the anti-corrosive agents, which would have prevented the whole crisis. Instead, they didn’t do their job and didn’t add the agents. The government knew that the water was contaminated, yet they still did nothing for a whole year and a half. The public outcry will hopefully motivate the government to have a more swift and efficient response to a future health crisis. We have all seen the news about this outcry and of all of the rage that this crisis has induced. The government would obviously not want this rage to come up again, so they are obliged to take action immediately.

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