Flint water crisis

Scroll through all of our coverage of the Flint water crisis below. And you can find our special series Not Safe to Drink here.

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint's water rates are on track to double in the next five years – even though the city already pays some of the highest water rates in the country.

That was a big takeaway at a meeting today of the team charged with overseeing Flint’s recovery. 

Right now, the typical water bill in Flint is $53.84 a month. But it could be $101.95 in five years, if nothing changes.

That’s because of the growing gap between what Flint’s water system costs, and the city’s shrinking customer base.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Some Flint residents may be eligible for more healthcare benefits than they thought.

According to the "Care for Flint" campaign, the expansion of Medicaid has changed the income requirements for some services. 

"Care for Flint" is a collaboration of non-profits, churches, and grassroots organizations trying to find solutions to the ongoing water crisis.

Jamie Gaskin is the CEO of United Way of Genesee County and he says helping people understand their healthcare options is the goal of the campaign.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s drinking water crisis took center stage at the Republican National Convention today, if only for a moment.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is the only Michigander scheduled to speak from the podium during the convention’s four-day run at the Quicken Loans Arena.

There’s a new chief for the embattled state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) but the effort to restore confidence to the agency that was a huge part of the Flint water crisis is off to a rocky start.

A lead service line removed from a Flint home. Lead service lines were useful because the metal is flexible and can bend - making installation easier.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There are several potential sources of lead in your home plumbing that can get into your drinking water.

  • The service line connecting the water main to your house could be made out of lead
  • The solder in your plumbing could have lead in it
  • And older brass faucets and valves can contain lead

So how do you figure out what you have in your house?

This question has been nagging at me for some time. At our house, we drink the water straight from the tap.

Congressman Dan Kildee
Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Dan Kildee

Democrats in Congress want House Speaker Paul Ryan to send money to Flint before Congress adjourns for seven weeks.

Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint sent a letter to Speaker Ryan, saying Congress should vote on The families of Flint Act, which Kidlee proposed earlier this year.

The act would pay for infrastructure repairs, health monitoring and economic development in Flint amid the ongoing water crisis.

Kildee says Congress should act now because Flint is still in need two years after the lead contamination became news.

Work crew replacing a lead service line
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint plans to move ahead with plans to remove more lead service lines.

Pipes connecting homes to city water mains are a prime source of lead in Flint’s drinking water.

But so far, of the thousands of suspect service lines under city streets, only 33 have been replaced. 

Now Mayor Karen Weaver says she’s asking the city council to approve contracts with two Flint companies (Goyette Mechanical and WT Stevens Construction, Inc.) to remove 250 service lines as part of a new pilot program.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette

 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette faces complex legal hurdles in civil lawsuits against a water company and an engineering company, along with their parent companies.

 

The lawsuit claims that Veolia North America of Delaware and Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam of Texas failed to take proper steps in the Flint water crisis and created a public nuisance. The suit aims to collect money for damages.

 

But legal experts say there are a number of issues that could stand in the way of a potential win for the attorney general in trial or in a settlement.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

A lawsuit asking Flint to remove lead service lines free of charge for all of its water customers may proceed, according to a U.S. District Court ruling. The suit was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the ACLU of Michigan, Concerned Pastors for Social Action, and Flint resident Melissa Mays. 

the city of Flint
wikimedia user Flintmichigan / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A recent University of Michigan research analysis shows wage growth in Flint was the seventh-highest nationally in 2015, outpacing growth in Michigan and in major cities around the country. 

Wages in Genesee County, which comprises the Flint Metropolitan Statistical Area, grew 5.7% in 2015. Two other Michigan MSAs ranked in the top 100: Bay City was 26th and Kalamazoo was 37th. With 3.4% growth in real wages, Detroit ranked 101st. 

As a state, Michigan ranked 15th in wage growth, and the Midwest saw stronger growth than any other region.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Next week, Virginia Tech researchers return to Flint to test the city’s drinking water for a third time.

A year ago, their tests showed high levels of lead in the city’s tap water.

A second round of testing showed improvement, but not enough.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This fall, water experts from around the world are expected to come to Flint for a summit on water infrastructure issues.

Flint’s water crisis has become a symbol for the problems facing aging water systems.

Bryce Feighner is special advisor on drinking water with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He’s helping to organize the summit.

Feighner says they’re reaching out to experts across the U.S. and Europe, seeking innovative answers to the problems that Flint and other cities with aging, faltering municipal water systems face.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint.
Michigan Municipal League / dan kildee

The Washington, D.C. and Flint offices of U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., are nearly 600 miles apart. But lead-tainted water has recently been a problem in both. 

Monday, the Architect of the Capitol's office sent an eye-opening advisory to staffers in the D.C. building housing Kildee's office.

"This week, the AOC received results within the Cannon House Office Building that indicate lead levels in drinking water sources are slightly above the EPA standard," wrote William Weidemeyer, the House Office Buildings superintendent. 

A fountain on the University of Michigan's central campus.
user VasenkaPhotography / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The University of Michigan says it's testing the drinking water on its Ann Arbor campus for lead and copper.

The school say it's just a precautionary measure, adding there’s no indication anything’s wrong with the water.

This kind of system-wide testing is becoming more common after the Flint water crisis.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A pastor says donations of bottled water to his Flint church have dried up in the past month.

Donations poured in from across the nation in the weeks and months after it was learned that Flint's drinking water was contaminated with lead. At times, the response nearly overwhelmed the effort to distribute water to Flint residents.  

Bishop Roger Lee Jones’ north side church parking lot used to be filled with pallets of water, but now the flood of donations has slowed to a trickle. 

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says lawyers hired by Governor Rick Snyder at public expense are delaying progress in the criminal investigation of the Flint water crisis.

faucet
Steve Johnson / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Flint isn't alone when it comes to problems with lead-contaminated tap water.

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says more than 5,000 water systems around the country had lead violations in 2015.

That comes out to more than 18 million Americans who were served by lead-contaminated water systems last year.

The report, which analyzed data from the Environmental Protection Agency, may not even show how big the problem really is, according to Erik Olson with the NRDC.

Transmission electron microscopy image of Legionella pneumophilia, responsible for over 90% of Legionnares' disease cases.
CDC Public Health Library / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There were 91 people who contracted Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015.

It was a spectacular spike in cases in a county which averaged fewer than 10 cases of legionella over the prior four years.

Records show that 12 of those 91 patients died.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint continues to struggle to replace damaged pipes.    

Mayor Karen Weaver said bids from contractors to replace up to 500 service lines came in “extremely high”. 

But there is an offer on the table that could potentially present the city with a big savings.

Walter Wang is the owner of JM Eagle, a California company that produces plastic pipes.  Back in February, Wang offered to give the city enough plastic PVC pipe to replace thousands of damaged lead service lines for free.

But to date, Flint officials have not accepted Wang’s offer.

Crew works on replacing a lead service line in Flint earlier this year.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint city officials are scheduled to sit down with seven contractors tomorrow with hopes of getting the city’s pipe replacement program back on track.

Contractors submitted bids last week to replace hundreds of lead service lines in Flint.

The pipes connect homes to city water mains, and are a prime source of lead that’s leeching into Flint’s drinking water.

But Mayor Karen Weaver says those bids were “extremely high.” She says Monday’s meeting is intended to hopefully find ways to reduce the cost.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is setting aside more money for future disasters and emergencies.

This past week, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill to raise the cap on Michigan’s Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund from $4.5 million to $10 million.   

The fund provides state assistance to counties and municipalities when federal assistance is not available.

Flint River and water plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint water crisis is now an important piece of the city's story and history.

It will affect the city and its residents for decades to come.  

Michigan Radio and countless other local and national news outlets have reported various aspects of the crisis, from how it unfolded to how the crisis will affect the city's children as they grow into adults. And that reporting will continue into the foreseeable future, since Flint water is still not safe to drink, unfiltered.

Republican presidential candidate at a campaign stop in Warren, Michigan (prior to his stop in Cadillac).
Jake Neher / MPRN

Two of the biggest Michigan political stories this week were the announcement of more lawsuits involving the Flint water crisis, and the "Dump Trump" movement in the presidential race. 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that his office has filed a civil suit against three companies (Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam) for their role in the Flint water crisis.

Tens of thousands of water filters have been distributed in Flint.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Health officials say filtered Flint tap water is now safe enough for children and pregnant women to drink.

For months, concerns about potential lead exposure from the tap prompted federal, state and local officials to urge kids and pregnant women to only drink bottled water in Flint.

But that recommendation is changing.

Dr. Nicole Lurie is an Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   She’s leading the federal response to the Flint Water Crisis.

Attorney General Bill Schuette faces legal complexities in his civil lawsuit to acquire damages for Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced today he's suing companies that he says allowed the Flint water disaster to, in his words, "occur, continue and worsen."

Michigan Radio

The allegations in a civil lawsuit may prompt the city of Flint to reconsider a contract with a firm hired to help it with its drinking water.

The city of Flint has paid Lockwood, Andrews and Newman, or LAN, nearly $3.5 million as it transitioned from Detroit water to the Flint River and back again.

In a civil suit filed this week, Michigan’s Attorney General accuses LAN of “botching” the job, with damaged pipes and lead tainted tap water the result.

Mayor Karen Weaver says it’s “absolutely unbelievable”.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The head of the Michigan Attorney General’s investigation into the Flint water crisis is threatening to take state agencies to court to force them to turn over documents.

Todd Flood has been leading Attorney General Bill Schuette's investigation into Flint’s lead-tainted water since January.

The probe has already resulted in criminal charges against three government officials.    A lawsuit has also just been filed against companies that acted as consultants to the city during the switch from Detroit water to the Flint River.

Michigan AG Bill Schuette
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that his office has filed a civil suit against three companies involved in the Flint water crisis.

The suit names Veolia North America, Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, and Leo A. Daly Co. as defendants.

Schuette said these companies "botched the job" when it came to providing safe drinking water to Flint.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

After months of wrangling, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is reluctantly agreeing to hook the city up to the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline for the city's drinking water.

Emergency managers made the decision to switch Flint’s drinking water to the KWA pipeline as a way to save money. Flint's city council gave its stamp of approval as well. But Flint’s new elected leaders wanted out of the deal because of the cost.

Michigan Radio

Virginia Tech researchers are back in Flint this week.

This time they’re focused on the city’s hot water heaters.

Many Flint residents fear lead and other metals leaching from damaged pipes have accumulated in their hot water heaters making bathing hazardous. 

For the next few weeks, Virginia Tech researchers will be testing water heaters not only for lead, but also for bacteria, including Legionella.  

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