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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.

A photo collage of Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State officials are looking at ways to improve their response to Flint’s water crisis, almost three years after the disastrous decision to pump water from the Flint River. 

As the city of Flint continues to rip out thousands of old lead and galvanized pipes connecting homes and businesses to city water mains, state officials expect they will see spikes in lead levels in the water.

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

Flint city council members say they need to know more about plans to upgrade the city’s water plant.

Mistakes made treating water drawn from the Flint River resulted in corrosive water damaging the city’s pipes. The damaged pipes leeched lead into Flint’s tap water.  

More than a year after the city’s drinking water source was switched back to treated water from Detroit, tests still show elevated levels of lead in the tap water of many Flint homes. 

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Scottpruitt.com

At his confirmation hearing today, the man chosen by president-elect Donald Trump to lead the Environmental Protection Agency says the EPA should have responded faster to the Flint water crisis.

Scott Pruitt has not been a fan of EPA action in the past.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt has fought many EPA regulations opposed by the state’s oil industry and agricultural leaders. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state should have to deliver water to every household in Flint that doesn’t have water filters properly installed.

That position puts him at odds with Governor Rick Snyder’s administration, which is trying to have a court order requiring the deliveries dismissed. 

Noah Hall is Schuette’s attorney in the case. He says the state caused the problem, so it has a responsibility to Flint residents.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Preparing Flint’s water plant to treat water from a new Lake Huron pipeline will take a few years.

Problems at the water plant helped to create Flint’s current troubles with lead-tainted tap water. 

JoLisa McDay, Flint’s interim utilities director, told a town hall meeting Wednesday that it’s about more than buying new equipment. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan State University College of Human Medicine is getting a $500,000 grant from the state to develop a registry of Flint residents exposed to the city’s tainted drinking water.

The grant is coming from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

Dr. Eden Wells, Michigan's chief medical executive, says while children’s exposure to lead in the water is a primary concern, the registry will follow other health issues as well.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - The state of Michigan says it has money to replace faucets in as many as 4,000 Flint homes.

  The state says brass faucets and other brass components can contribute to lead in drinking water. The state plans to target Flint homes that still are showing high lead levels, despite improvements in water quality elsewhere in the city.

  Homes that qualify will have one kitchen faucet and one bathroom faucet replaced. Some plumbing will also be replaced. Health department Director Nick Lyon says it's a "vital step" in helping residents.

Flint residents packed a town hall meeting yesterday to hear a “progress report” on their drinking water.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint residents packed a town hall meeting last night to hear a progress report on their water.

As EPA Region 5 Acting Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan said on Stateside on Wednesday, an array of scientific tests and data show that the water is improving, but as people were told last night by the EPA, Flint's tap water isn't safe to drink unless its been run through a filter.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver (at the podium) was joined by national and local experts to discuss the latest Flint water test results.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Government and independent experts told people at a town hall meeting in Flint last night that the city’s lead-tainted tap water is improving. But audience members remained skeptical. 

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

Some Flint residents have said they're worried that Flint's water will meet federal standards and get the "all-clear."

For This Week in Politics, Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and Michiga Radio senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about what government leaders need to do to ensure that people don't feel the process in Flint isn't being rushed. 

They also talk about whether we'll see a political shift from Gov. Rick Snyder during his final two years in office, a bill that would repeal Michigan's school turnaround law, and the odd mix of electric vehicles and SUVs at the North American International Auto Show


Courtesy Nan Palmero / Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

According to a U.S. EPA official, Flint’s water system is improving.

This conclusion is the result of a closed-door meeting at EPA headquarters in Chicago yesterday. Data was presented from a number of officials, including the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Tech, EPA experts from Flint, and the Center for Disease Control.

Robert Kaplan is the acting administrator for EPA Region 5.

Stateside's Cynthia Canty talked to Kaplan right after last night's meeting ended

What can we learn about water from the people in Bolivia?
Florence.S / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

For centuries, residents of the Great Lakes state have been able to take water for granted. But the Flint water crisis, coupled with 70,000 households in Detroit having their water shut off, have forced Michigan to confront water issues in a way we never have before.

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Valerie Vande Panne, an award-winning journalist, thinks that in order to learn from these water crises, we need to look to the south. To Bolivia. That's where people fought back, and won, against corporate water control.

The Flint water treatment plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

What really caused the Flint water crisis?

The obvious and well-known answer is the April 2014 decision to start drawing the city's drinking water from the Flint River. That, in turn, caused corrosion in the city's lead water pipes, which caused lead to leach into the water.

Others point to Governor Rick Snyder's appointment of an emergency manager to control Flint's affairs. That happened in late 2011.

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Michigan State University public health expert and urban geographer Rick Sadler argues the true cause of Flint's water disaster goes back decades.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Tomorrow, state and federal officials meet in Chicago to discuss the latest data on Flint’s water crisis.

Critics of the state’s handling of the Flint water crisis say they don’t want to hear the city’s tap water is safe to drink once again.

Flint’s water became contaminated with lead after the city’s water source was switched to the Flint River.   Improperly treated river water damaged city pipes. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A group of doctors, regulators and outside experts is meeting behind closed doors in Chicago Tuesday to determine if Flint’s water technically meets federal standards again. The meeting at EPA’s regional headquarters could be the start of a shift; from a public health emergency to a longer term response.

Water samples have improved for several months. But there are still some homes with spikes in lead levels that are potentially dangerous without a water filter.

Some experts now believe any homes with a lead water service line are at risk.

University of Michigan Professor Rosina Bierbaum says scandals like Flint's water crisis have eroded public trust in the safety of drinking water
Courtesy of Raiz Up

In the wake of the Flint water crisis, president Obama asked a group of scientists and engineers to make recommendations on how to ensure the safety of the country's drinking water.

The report, released by the Presidential Council on Science and Technology, calls for more frequent water testing and increased data-sharing between government agencies.

University of Michigan professor Rosina Bierbaum is a member of the President's Council on Science and Technology, and helped write the report.

Many Flint residents still rely on bottled water.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A judge has appointed a mediator in a federal case that could dramatically change how the state of Michigan responds to the Flint water crisis.

Last month, U.S. District Judge David Lawson ordered the state to immediately begin delivering safe bottled water to Flint residents. Right now the state provides water and filters but residents have to pick it up or call a hotline to get it delivered.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - It was an expensive year for Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers who spent hundreds of millions of dollars to address Flint's water emergency and to rescue Detroit's school district from massive debt.

  Legislators also authorized higher speed limits and allowed the testing of self-driving cars on public roads without a driver or steering wheel. Other top laws include new medical marijuana regulations and the authorization of higher speed limits on rural highways.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

“Cavalier." That’s how one group is describing the state of Michigan’s response to the latest attempt to force bottled water delivery to Flint homes.

Several groups, along with Flint residents, want the state and city to deliver bottled water to Flint homes without a working water filter.

Last month, a federal judge ordered home water deliveries.  And last week, an Appeals Court rejected the state’s request to put the order on hold.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal court is giving the state of Michigan and the city of Flint until Friday to show how they are complying with a court ruling ordering the immediate delivery of bottled water to Flint homes without working water filters.  

michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder has increased his legal defense budget for one of his private attorneys to $3.5 million dollars.

Snyder hired Warner, Norcross & Judd LLP last spring to represent him in the investigations into the Flint water crisis.

The contract for their firm at the time was for 249-thousand dollars. Over time, that cap rose to 2 million dollars before its most recent increase.  

Spokesperson for Governor Snyder, Anna Heaton, said as long as the Attorney General’s investigation is ongoing, there is legal work to be done.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Attorney General Bill Schuette today unveiled a new batch of criminal charges in the Flint water disaster.

Charged today are former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, along with Howard Croft, former director of Public Works in Flint, and Daugherty Johnson, former utilities director of Flint.

This brings the total number of people charged by Schuette to 13.

Wayne State University Law professor and former federal prosecutor Peter Henning joined Stateside today to break down the charges.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette continues to bring charges against those involved in decisions leading up to the Flint water crisis.
Michigan AG's office

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed criminal charges against two former City of Flint employees, and two former state-appointed emergency managers in Flint.  

The four charged are:

  • Darnell Earley, former Flint Emergency Manager
  • Gerald Ambrose, former Flint Emergency Manager
  • Howard Croft, former Director of Public Works in Flint
  • Daugherty Johnson, former Flint Utilities Director

The defendants were charged with a range of felony charges, including “willful neglect of duty,” “false pretenses,” and “misconduct in office.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (left) and Special Counsel Todd Flood, along with Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton and the Flint Water Investigative Team have been investigating the Flint water crisis for most of the year
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Prosecutors say they will announce another round of criminal charges in the Flint water crisis tomorrow.

The announcement does not indicate if there are new charges against the current defendants or if charges are being filed against new defendants.

Nine current and former government employees have been charged so far in the aftermath of the Flint water crisis.

Flint’s former utilities director and a retired state health department epidemiologist have cut deals with prosecutors. 

The other seven defendants face court hearings next year.

Lee Anne Walters and Marc Edwards
Rick Pluta

 

In April 2014, the fateful decision was made to change Flint's drinking water source to the Flint River.

That led to what is known world-wide as the Flint water disaster.

But it took activist citizens like Lee Anne Walters working with Virginia Tech engineer Marc Edwards to rip apart layers of denial and stonewalling from state and Environmental Protection Agency officials. In 2001, Edwards proved that people in Washington D.C. were drinking lead-poisoned water after the city changed water treatment chemicals. So, when Walters and other worried Flint residents called, he answered. They joined us today, a year after the city officially declared a state of emergency.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio file photo

The lame duck session wrapped up in Lansing this week. In this Week in Review, Michigan Radio Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about bills that made it through the Legislature and one that didn't. They also discuss an important anniversary in the Flint water crisis.

An anniversary in Flint

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder hopes experts may soon provide clarity on when Flint's tap water will be safe to drink without a filter.

  In an interview with The Associated Press, Snyder said he's looking forward to a January "data summit" to review the water quality.

  He said healing Flint is a long-term effort, and his administration is focused not only on the water system but adding jobs and opening more preschool slots for disadvantaged kids.

People in Flint shared how things are going today for them. Visit myflintstory.tumblr.com to hear them.
Mark Brush

People in the city of Flint have been coping with a broken water system for a long time.

Dana and Charles Banks in front of their Flint home, shortly before they sold it..
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A year ago, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency in the city. Now, officials say the water is improving, but it’s still not safe to drink without a filter.

The water crisis has forced some people to make tough choices.

Dana Banks and her husband Charles were both born and raised in Flint, and they still have a lot of family here. Their church is here. Their house, right near downtown, is the first home they bought together.

The water crisis in Flint, Mich., didn't start a year ago. For almost two years, officials told residents the water was fine when it wasn't.

Later the officials told residents to drink filtered water — unless you're a baby or pregnant — in that case drink only bottled water.

Then they said tap water is safe for everybody, as long as you have a filter.

But now lots of people in Flint don't believe anything officials tell them.

"Don't drink the city water. Don't drink Flint water, period," says Jennice Badon says, who lives in the city.

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